HONG KONG (AP) — The theater troupe that’s brought an all-female interpretation of the “The Taming of the Shrew” to China says global audiences see Shakespeare’s works powerfully and they believe touring is at the heart of the Bard’s plays.
The players pay tribute to that in the opening of the production in Hong Kong by singing an Irish folk tune while dressed as a classic theatre troupe. The Shakespeare’s Globe group which rebuilt the Globe Theatre in London is performing for the first time in Hong Kong and has high hopes to establish a lasting presence in China.
Kate Lamb, who plays independent and headstrong Katherina, says working in new spaces before new audiences is the best part of performing globally.
“What I’ve discovered with the Globe is that the audience is as big a part of the play as are the actors,” Lamb said. “Every time you tour to a new venue you’re playing to a new audience, a new society, a new village or a new country, and that comes with it the reactions and different histories and so you are relating to a different thing.
“People laugh at different things depending on the country, depending on the town, and it’s great. It’s new every time and that’s the best thing for me,” she said.
Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole says he finds that people outside of Shakespeare’s home country often relate to the play more strongly and offer up more striking productions than the British do themselves.
“The extraordinary thing about Shakespeare’s play is often they speak more powerfully outside of England than they do inside England. It seems odd that, but a lot of places understand the world of these plays better than we do ourselves. Last year we had a production of ‘The Taming Of The Shrew’ from Pakistan, in Urdu, as part of our international festival. It was amazing how true and how sharply true it was to that society,” he said.
The group found new meaning to the play, and rather than viewing it as a dark comedy that sees Katherina conform herself to society’s expectation and transform herself into a submissive wife, Lamb sees her character as an insecure woman to whom modern girls could relate.
“I’ve actually had quite a few people come up to me and say to me how much they’ve related to what they saw on the stage and how much it meant to them and how it moved them. I mean, I can relate to it, to certain aspects of what she goes through and her personality. I think we all have fears of being lonely, I think we all have fears of being misunderstood. I think that’s incredibly natural,” she said.
Leah Whitaker plays the male protagonist, the gold-digging Petruchio who was determined to domesticate his wife, Katherina. The role is a challenging one, but Whitaker does not feel the pressure.
“Actually I think there’s an awful lot of freedom in acting as a man. Certainly in Shakespeare, women of our age very rarely get to be the protagonist because he didn’t write young female roles, or many young female roles that were as active and as fun as it is. So actually I think that it is a huge honor to play a man, but also it’s an awful lot of fun,” she said.
The “The Taming Of The Shrew” is being performed in Hong Kong through Sunday and in Singapore in October.