Edinburgh Fringe 2015
In his introduction to the comprehensive, free programme, EDP’s Art Director Hyon-u Lee hopes that “this Korean Shrew’s adventurous voyage to Edinburgh could, too, end happily in presenting joy, fun and dream for both the audience and my students.” This enchanting production achieves that objective and more – it’s a “Fringe find” and a true delight to watch.
EDP is the English drama club at the Soon Chun Hyang University in South Korea and they’ve been touring this version of The Taming of The Shrew since 2007, visiting Japan, Singapore, New York, Boston and Brisbane as well as venues nearer to home. This year they’re doing a week down at C South in Lutton Place, home to the elegant St Peter’s Church and its idyllic gardens.
This stripped down production of the Shrew makes inventive use of dance, physical theatre, mime and slapstick. And there’s a rich variety of music from traditional Korean, provided by the live travelling band, through to jazz, rhythm and blues, hip hop and even a bit of beat box. Words? Who needs those? They play a part in the show but, frankly, this version would have worked without dialogue, so good were the non-word elements.
For example, Bianca’s suitors engaged in a series of physical challenges to win her hand, “racing” across the stage on toy horses, “swimming” in comic bath caps and Korean traditional costume through a stormy sea (effectively portrayed with a blue cloth) and attempting to resist the temptations of a Korean “hostess”.
Other hilarious touches included Petrucio turning up to Kate’s wedding in a loin cloth and cod piece, in contrast to the other guests beautiful Korean garb (think Rufus Sewell in the BBC’s Shakespeare Retold series a few years back) and the “submission” of Kate through slipper bearing, clothes washing and (don’t ask!) a water pistol fight. There’s also some serious physical theatre as Petrucio fights to tame Kate (literally) in a sequence that was exquisitely choreographed, as was the almost continual interplay between Bianca’s suitors. Bianca and her entourage remained suitably aloof, providing a riot of colour as they danced in their flowing robes, fans snapping and clicking in unison.
And this vibrant, innovative and very fresh production comes to a whirlwind of a conclusion as Kate finally submits to the iron will of her man, Bianca is, at last, happily married and all depart to live happily ever after. Don’t leave too soon though – these guys have an encore that’s worth the admission price on its own.
The language of Shakespeare transcends all cultures, invites almost any interpretation. This one is a sure fire winner and comes highly recommended for anyone looking for a genuinely fresh take on one of his best loved comedies. Runs until 22nd August.