In Haunt

Gillian English punches holes in the plot of what is arguably one of Shakespeare’s most misogynist plays The Taming of the Shrew – and does it in the form of a fast-paced, quick-thinking hour-long comedy show.

GILLIAN ENGLISH: 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT TAMING OF THE SHREW featured at the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival on Monday 29 July 2019 – and this Canadian-born now Tasmania-living comedian certainly kept the audience on their toes. This is a show both intelligent and accelerated, as English provides perceptive feminist insight into the bard’s play, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1592.

10 Things

Yet The Taming of the Shrew is problematic – a point English makes, exposing issues of stereotyping, subversion and manifest misogyny in the process. One of the most notable things about English’s approach is its physical and verbal dexterity – with the comedian throwing herself into dressing-down Shakespeare good and proper, complete with sly, self-deprecating humour, powerball punchlines and even some fighting tips along the way.

Audiences don’t have to be familiar with Shakespeare’s work either, as English combines her own evident awareness of the play with creative comedy-making. The structure of show starts out with English setting the context and outlining the plot of The Taming of The Shrew…. no easy feat, and yet entertainingly done. She then proceeds to pile up her ‘10 reasons’ of hatred; all hilarious yet remarkably insightful points. She raises resonant questions such as: why are girls told that boys being to mean to them is a sign of affection? Why is this acceptable? And why are women disadvantaged so men can be given the outcome they want?

10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT TAMING OF THE SHREW is something I would call a crucial comedy – it cracks open contemporary issues and creates points of conversation, in a seriously funny way. For not only does English expose the issues in ‘canonical literature’ like Shakespeare and questions why it is revered, but also reveals strange things in society we still see as ‘conventional’.

The show certainly isn’t shy either, for English’s tone is a triumphant rallying cry for realisation, rolling together high-intensity humour with hilarious crude comments. Complete with her great impressions of accents, high-energy stage presence and powerful flair for anecdotes – incorporating Justin Trudeau, film remakes and tales of stage school along the way – it is relatable too.

There are times when English’s high-speed delivery risks some in the audience missing what she is saying, but this certainly does not override the excellent and insightful points she is making. It certainly made me look at both Shakespeare and society in a somewhat different way, and left me thinking (and giggling) for a long time after, like a good comedy should. Unapologetically expressive, Gillian English’s show was followed by mention of her fabulous merchandise, including swearing necklaces that proved very popular!

Gillian English previously spoke with Ian Rothwell (see our previous interview with him here) on his Salford City Radio show ‘A Bit of Everything’ and she will be appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe throughout August.

By Emily Oldfield

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