Siobhan Richardson is an in-charge kind of woman. When I haven't called her by 12:09 for our scheduled noon chat, she's calling me. In fairness, I was bearing down on Saturday morning housework, and lost track of time. She hadn't. She very graciously gave me five minutes to get organized, and call her back. Good thing I'd prepared a list of questions the night before!
It's two days until Driftwood Theatre's Toronto run of TAMING OF THE SHREW opens for the Toronto leg of its tour. They've already been to several Ontario cities, including London, and her home town of Kitchener. So far, the show has gone really well.
"We've been playing to really large houses: larger than we anticipated. It's exciting. The energy of the audiences has been wonderful."
I find Richardson's energy infectious. She tells me that Driftwood's take on Shakespeare's infamous battle of the sexes is being set in 1989, in Toronto. Lucentio is gender-fluid and woos Bianca secretly. Kate and Petruchio are in a consensual D/s relationship.
"The production uses Shakespeare's play to explore issues of acceptance, respect, and consent. Petruchio says, "If she be pleased, and I be pleased, what's that to you?" Good question.
"To tame, isn't to subjugate, but to create ties. Petruchio uses the metaphor of a falconer and and a falcon. When the bird doesn't eat, the keeper doesn't eat."
Yes, I point out, but the falconer still owns the bird. The bird is chattel. Petruchio treats Kate as chattel.
Not in this production. Richardson tells me that her Kate willingly gives control to Petruchio because she knows he loves her. "Kate is surrounded by people who hate her, or fear her. Her own mother treats her with no respect. Petruchio accepts her as she is, and for who she is. Their relationship is one of great trust. This allows her to be pushed to the edge of her limits." A pause. "Jeremy(Smith, Driftwood's artistic director, and the director of the production) lit a candle that I could walk towards. He gave us a lot of reading material. He had a really clear vision of the production that inspired all of us. Doing this has been an immersive experience."
The late '80s setting allowed them to employ pop music from the period, giving Richardson and company an excellent opportunity to use their vocal chops. She has done a lot of musical theatre and loves to sing. Does she have a favourite role? "Oh, I played twins in a musical, THE LAST RESORT at Sterling. It was great fun, a great challenge. members of the audience actually thought there were two actors!"
Richardson likes all kinds of challenges. She's a well-trained stage combatant, and is the fight captain of the production, as well as its leading lady.
"I'm a tough girl. I can take what he (Petruchio) dishes out. Look, ultimately, the play is a comedy. We want the production to stimulate conversation among people, and to help them enjoy the story."
I've certainly enjoyed my conversation with Richardson. She's thoughtful, tough-minded, energetic and passionate. I hope Petruchio appreciates her.
Driftwood Theatre's production continues in Toronto at Withrow Park ( a short walk from Pape Station) until July 24 and then resumes touring Ontario throughout the summer. Toronto performances begin at 7:30 PM . All performances are Pay What You Can. Chairs can be rented on site and refreshments are available. www.driftwoodtheatre.com for more information.
Correction: Richard Lee is the fight director of Taming of the Shrew. Ms. Richardson is the fight captain for the production. The author wishes to apologize for her earlier error, and for failing to credit Mr. Lee for his work.