Amy Price talks to the director and producer of Aidan’s College Theatre’s upcoming production of William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.
Aidan’s College Theatre (ACT) will be celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday with their 1920s portrayal of his comedy classic, The Taming of the Shrew.
Will Petruchio manage to tame bad-tempered, fiery Katharina? Will Lucentio manage to wed innocent Bianca? Join us to find out, for what is sure to be the biggest battle of the sexes to hit Durham this year.
Firstly, why ‘The Taming of the Shrew’?
Laura Chapman (Aidan’s Drama Coordinator and Producer): ACT’s ethos is about making theatre accessible for everyone, so I wanted to select a play that appealed to the widest audience possible. The Taming of the Shrew’s witty script is comedic whilst also portraying issues relevant to today’s society. We watch as two head-strong people battle to become the “one on top”, and yet by the end they are, in my opinion, both equals.
Courtney Cliffe (Director): The Taming of the Shrew was the perfect play for ACT to do this year. It’s one of Shakespeare’s best comedies as it has something for everyone! If you look beneath the surface of a play with a somewhat controversial title, you will find that it is more about finding your equal. St. Aidan’s College are very proactive in challenging sensitive issues and it’s proved a good challenge for us.
What will you be doing to make the show more appealing to a student audience?
LC: We’ve decided to set the play in the 1920s, complete with a jazz bar, with the servants acting as “waiters”. We chose the 1920s in order to hopefully portray Kate as a metaphor for the rebellion of women against gender inequality. We are also teaming up with members from the Durham University Jazz Society, who will be providing us with a live jazz quartet. We hope not only to attract a student audience though, but also to appeal to the public. We’ll be providing a sneak peek of the show in Market Square this Saturday afternoon, so look out for us then!
How does ACT operate as a society, and how does this affect big Assembly Rooms shows?
LC: ACT works as a society as part of St Aidan’s College MAD (Music, Art and Drama) Committee. It’s led by an Exec, but the Music, Art and Drama Coordinators each have their own society. Our main aim is to provide dramatic opportunities for members of St Aidan’s College, but we held open auditions for The Taming of the Shrew as we were performing at The Assembly Rooms. We are very happy to say that the vast majority of our production team are from Aidan’s and in contrast, our cast are from a wide variety of colleges.
CC: I think having a close production team will be very useful to bring everyone together and aid working together for that final push. Having such a diverse cast allows us to collect the best of talents from across Durham. For me, ACT has brought an amazing cast together who all share a common interest in theatre and in Shakespeare!
Have you found the holiday break challenging to work around when putting this show together?
CC: Obviously the break has not been ideal and having to direct the play before the end of the term was more than a wee bit stressful! Having said that, it’s a challenge we were all aware of when we received the slot allocation. We’ve been back a week early before Easter Term starts to ensure our play is ready for the theatre. It will make the rehearsal process more intense and give the cast a real drive towards our end goal!
LC: I’d like to ditto that; the situation is not ideal, but we’re fortunate to have a very driven and reliable cast. They’ve made coming back after a four-week break really easy. It’s given everyone the time to focus and now we have a whole week to work on the nitty-gritty, a blessing which can be quite rare in Durham theatre!
CC: “Why, there’s a wench, come kiss me Kate.”
LC: “If I be waspish, best beware my sting.”
Do you think that Durham Theatre does too much Shakespeare? Is it not becoming a little cliché?
CC: As long as Durham continues to give alternative and interesting interpretations of Shakespeare, it will never become boring. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t be doing British theatre or our actors justice if we didn’t do Shakespeare.
LC: From a producer’s point of view, a Shakespeare play is arguably easier to market as it appeals to a wide range of audiences and there can be lots of outreach opportunities for schools, but I certainly don’t think it’s performed too much. I completely agree, nothing can become cliché if done in an interesting way! I think Durham’s theatre scene is so diverse there’s never the opportunity to become cliché.
What’s your favourite aspect of the show?
LC: I love Petruchio’s and Katharina’s first meeting. It’s hilariously fast-paced, packed with action, and really shows of the actor’s capabilities. However, I also just love how Shakespeare has included so many diverse characters. From an eccentric Lord abusing his power, to an arrogant, dominant Petruchio, a hot-headed and scornful Kate, to the fairest and demure Bianca.
CC: My favourite message from the show is that true love is hard work, and to find true love we have to work at it. The play points out the flaws of “love at first sight.” I think that Shakespeare is highlighting that we want someone to be our match and be our equal!
Fill in the blank: ‘If you love […] you’ll love ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.
LC: If you love procrastinating from revision by experiencing a fresh take on Shakespearean comedy!
CC: If you love comedy, romance and some good jazz music, then this is the play for you!
‘The Taming of the Shrew’ will be performed at The Assembly Rooms, Thu 23rd April – Sat 25th April, 7:30pm
Book online here; Tickets: Standard £6/Student £5.50/DST £5
Poster: Abi McDonald
Photographs: Laura Chapman