I am becoming aware of a recent trend in the theatrical world, particularly in Shakespeare productions, namely manipulation and re-interpretation of gender. In this production the genders were reversed. Not just the actors, but their characters too. The names remained the same, but the him’s were her’s and husband’s were wife’s.
It may seem an odd choice to swap over the genders in a play so steeped in misogyny and the battle of sexes. However, as explained in the show’s program, this interpretation drew our attention towards violence and cruelty towards men. This was all very well and good. You may call me old-fashioned, but perhaps if the Cygnet Company wanted to discuss the idea of domestic violence towards men, they should have chosen a play about this topic. If all it wants to say is that women can be cruel too, then fine. This still don’t seem this worthy of a gender swap, however.
Having said this, the play was by no means a failure. It was well acted and moderately well directed. Tessa Gaukroger’s Petruchio was a real lesson in dominance, both in terms of femininity and stage presence. The blocking, however, needed some development. It often looked as though the cast had just been directed to walk on, stand in a line and converse, and then walk off again. Of course I appreciate that this might have been due to the cutting down of the script to fit an hour, but nonetheless the play seemed stagnant at times. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it, but on the whole, it wasn’t a negative experience.