I must admit it’s an experience like I’ve never had before – to take my seat at Pontio’s Bryn Terfel Theatre with no idea what I was about to see.
Swooping into Pontio, Bangor for their only visit to Wales on their international tour, Shakespare’s Globe on Tour promised an experience like no other, and indeed that’s what they delivered. A new venture for the company, they chose to leave the choice of play in the hands of the audience as we were given the opportunity to vote through loud cheers which of the three plays on offer, Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew or The Merchant of Venice, we wanted to see that evening.
It was a unique and enjoyable start to the evening as the cast of eight engaged with the audience to retrieve our vote. We cheered and after a dead heat and with the final decision put in the hands of a young boy in the front row it was decided – the play we were to see that evening was The Taming of the Shrew.
In mere seconds after the decision was made and after a few outfits were tossed from the simplistic set’s balcony, we were thrown into the world of the play.
I’ve got be honest, going in I did have my reservations. From the three plays we had to choose from I wasn’t familiar with any, and probably like many in the audience my last encounter with Shakespeare was reading one of his plays at an English lesson in school. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow and that the thrill of it all would be lost in Shakespeare’s unique, but often tricky, archaic language.
So, I was very glad to have my worries eased as, despite the traditional language and quick pace of the show, it was easy enough to follow. The play was packed with drama, comedy, entertaining musical interludes and hard-hitting themes more relevant today than ever before.
When I wasn’t laughing at the strong comedy and satire which ran throughout the play I often saw myself sat in awe of the performers. Each actor mastered the old Shakespearian custom of doubling roles and portrayed a wide variety of characters within The Taming of the Shrew, with many as far detached from the actor’s gender, age and race as possible. And at the back of my mind throughout the performance lay the thought that the spectacle and broad repertoire of performances we were seeing on stage was merely a third of what these actors had prepared for the evening.
Running throughout the play, and a key point of discussion in the Q&A session which followed with the cast and assistant director Isabel Marr, chaired by Professor Helen Wilcox, was the play’s themes and its relevance to today. Those were truly unmissable, with feminism and the role of women throughout the play baring relevance to the current #MeToo movement. It left me, and surely many in the audience, questioning the sad reality of how a text written half a century ago still bares so much relevance today in regards to the role and voice of women.
However, I must admit a theme which truly had me thinking long after I left the theatre was identity. As I watched talented actors convey with such passion and persuasion as a character so far-parted from themselves, I grew confident in knowing that gender, race or age should never define a role.
Here’s hoping now that archaic pieces such as this can pave the way to engaging brand new thinking in theatre.
If you get the chance, I’d say don’t miss the opportunity to see this truly unique spectacle – as whichever show you choose to cheer loudly for, you’re guaranteed to experience something truly incredible.
Shakespeare’s Globe will be at Pontio for their only dates in Wales from the 7th – 9th of June. To book tickets follow the link: https://www.pontio.co.uk/Online/theglobe