The Taming of the Shrew - Old Vic
Loved Twelfth Night and after a freezing walk to the theatre it was great to sit down in beautiful warmth of the Old Vic and think – entertain me. Of course this play is not a modern favourite as it deals with the now dodgy subject of a man taming his shrill wife. Nevertheless, the audience seemed to be mostly women and they loved it.
Kiss my white ass
Turning Petruchio and his sidekick Grumio into cowboys was inspired. The chaps. G-strings and bare asses (only revealed on turning when they exit) was real theatre. A sort of ‘kiss my white ass’ joke. In fact all of the costumes were intriguing. I thought I spotted some pop influences - Michael Jackson, Jethro Tull? The music varied from soprano choral to rock, blues, swing and country & western. The GCSE kids in the audience loved all of this. The transformation into tramps was a bit odd, but this is my only negative comment on another great night watching this all male cast nail it yet again.
Learn to learn
An unexpected theme was learning. There’s loads of direct reference to learning in the text and it could be argued that it’s a study in how we change the behaviour of others, rather than the usual interpretations around marriage and gender. There are lots of references to learning, teaching, schools and lessons in the text.
The play presents different methods of learning by Lucentio, Hortensio and Petruchio. He covers booking study, tell and practice and learning by strict behavioural change. On the whole he has a clear distain for an over-scholarly approach to life and learning. Learning Latin is satitrised, the expense of University questioned and mnemonics praised. Learning from experience is his recommendation.
The play starts with a goal:
Here let us breathe and haply institute
A course of learning and ingenious studies.
A balanced approach is recommended:
Let's be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray;
Or so devote to Aristotle's cheques
As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured:
Balk logic with acquaintance that you have
And practise rhetoric in your common talk;
Music and poesy use to quicken you;
The mathematics and the metaphysics,
Fall to them as you find your stomach serves you;
No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en:
In brief, sir, study what you most affect.
My books and instruments shall be my company,
On them to took and practise by myself.
O this learning, what a thing it is! O this woodcock, what an ass it is!
On scheduled learning:
I am no breeching scholar in the schools;
I'll not be tied to hours nor 'pointed times,
But learn my lessons as I please myself.
And, to cut off all strife, here sit we down:
Take you your instrument, play you the whiles;
His lecture will be done ere you have tuned.
On learning Latin:
'Hic ibat,' as I told you before, 'Simois,' I am
Lucentio, 'hic est,' son unto Vincentio of Pisa,
'Sigeia tellus,' disguised thus to get your love;
'Hic steterat,' and that Lucentio that comes
a-wooing, 'Priami,' is my man Tranio, 'regia,'
bearing my port, 'celsa senis,' that we might
beguile the old pantaloon.
On learning from a manual:
Madam, before you touch the instrument,
To learn the order of my fingering,
I must begin with rudiments of art;
To teach you gamut in a briefer sort,
More pleasant, pithy and effectual,
Than hath been taught by any of my trade:
And there it is in writing, fairly drawn.