News | 03 Jun 2019

2019 Senior Drama Production ‘Taming of the Shrew’

Kangaroo Valley

There’s no other word to describe the 2019 Senior Drama Production of Taming of the Shrew except a ‘triumph’! Playing seven shows over the last two weeks at Northholm and in the Kangaroo Valley, the show rose above a simple high school show to become something truly spectacular. A huge thank you to Lorna Brettell and Brooke Stephens for their fantastic directorial help, Stellina Trestrail for running our front of house both at school and in Kangaroo Valley, and Sharon Bourne for transporting so much equipment to the Valley. This production could not have happened without you.
To everyone in the Northholm and Kangaroo Valley Community who came to watch the show, thank you so much for your continued support, you were part of something truly special.
Every cast and crew member rose to a level that would make Shakespeare himself proud. We are so lucky to have such talented and dedicated students here at Northholm.
We look forward to seeing you all at our upcoming Junior School Production in Term Three and the Year Seven and Eight Production in Term Four!
This year, it was quite humbling to receive the below unsolicited review from a Kangaroo Valley resident which will appear in their monthly magazine.

BRAD TURBOTT
Drama Co-Ordinator

 

THE SHREW’S REPRISE,
An appreciation of Northholm’s Drama Production in Kangaroo Valley,
Alice Oppen May 2019 The Taming of the Shrew has offered challenges to producers for more than four centuries. Can a woman be tamed? Is it acceptable to tame a wife? In what ways does a wife belong to a husband?

Much of the panoply of women’s experience is represented in Shakespeare’s range of characters; indeed, he managed to extend the roles of women well beyond what had officially permitted them in English society between 1590 and 1610. Were his women just imaginary constructs, even freaks, or was Shakespeare a better listener than the male historians who presumed that law and custom successfully restricted women? For the most part in his plays, women were successful in their endeavours in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, unsuccessful or overruled in King James’ reign. Misogynist King James may have enjoyed women plotted disastrous end while missing a subtext of women’s ability to interact inpolitical affairs. The thriving playwright and company had an ear for audiences’ concerns. Taming, indeed (watch Bianca).

Because a woman’s nature and role were defined by the always male religious leaders and a legal system which upheld a male hierarchy, women’s ability to define an acceptable identity and to write about it were severely limited. Although Shakespeare’s plots showed much greater latitude and humour than was proper, he returned his women to a necessity of marriage and making the best of the bargain. Women of the Renaissance were primarily voiced by men playwrights and portrayed by boy actors, and one must experience productions over subsequent centuries to gauge how successful we feel are the portrayals of women, and to trace the differing interpretations.

Director Brad Turbott (ably assisted by the talents of Lorna Brettell and Brooke Stephens) and Northholm Grammar’s 2019 production in Kangaroo Valley solved the problem of taming with élan and gender balance (with Mia Band and Beth Dewhurst turning their normally male roles on their heads!). With a sound-shift roar into the 1990s, Kate’s (Bridget Davey) and Bianca’s (Lauren Ivory) mother Baptista (Faith Trestrail) reverberated, clad in luminous exercise gear and earphones. Until Baptista uncovered her ears, we all were in her world, blasted by her music – a powerful sound gag.

Baptista’s wager of lots of money that Kate couldn’t be tamed resulted (after the traditional sleep and food deprivation) in an offstage tip-off between mercenary new husband Petruchio (Max Schneider-Smith) and resentful Kate about the taming bonus. Her transformative performance morphing into an object of men’s desire was intensely dramatic, so sudden as to be suspicious.

In a performance in the late 1500s, we would have perceived a woman undermining others’ aspirations, actively taking men’s part against her sisters. Kate sided against her sister Bianca, at first in jealousy but, if in sincere reading of her speech, in betrayal of women who wished to gain control of husbands. Kate could be demonstrating the thoroughness of her taming, not just by acting a clever pet trick in front of the party guests, not just by ruining a hat she wanted, but by separating from the other women in instructing them that their men were their all. That is Petruchio’s scripting, men’s drawing of the wife image, and Kate undermined the sisterhood by uttering it. The message might have been that this was the way to have harmony in the home; it was certainly not that Kate would have women friends in Padua or elsewhere.

Where Northholm performers and Director Brad Turbott deserve most credit lies in the acting of Max Schneider-Smith, not macho but with revolving waves of embarrassment, surprise and gratification on Petruchio’s countenance as he hears this excess of female submission to autocratic male headship expectations. His embarrassment shows that he senses it is nonsense and unfair; we are convulsed by laughter at his double vision. Better than Meryl Streep’s game-playing collusion with her master, this Kate’s foghorn fury is turned saccharine, evening up the gender score, very twenty-first century, yet still well within the original playscript.

The performance literally dances on the fabulous talent of the cast, Tyler Old’s superb choreography and talent making this a musical extravaganza of individual and group virtuosity.

Importantly, the embellishments Turbott adds to this Shakespearean comedy are fitting, highlighting the power skirmishes on the way to marital felicity or duplicity, and tickling in their musical modes of sprightliness. His direction didn’t cannibalise its host play; rather it defined the characters and concepts.

Lastly, the characters’ lives were projected beyond the ending of the play in social media feeds. True fortune-telling, as many Kates are styled “shrew” by their political opponents and the media. Touché, Fox News.

Taming used to make me rebellious, shrew-like, but thanks to this production, I am still chuckling with Petruchio’s mixture of chagrin and good fortune.

Thank you, Northholm.