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The Taming of the Shrew at Hall Barn, Beaconsfield



 
Grab your picnic baskets and head to Hall Barn, in the old town of Beaconsfield.
Why?
Well, the setting is gorgeous, to start with!
Hall Barn is part of one of the largest private estates in UK. It is not very commercialised  other than the Chiltern Shakespeare Company's summer performances, every year. 
Plus, if you are newly married, you get to rethink the forever-going power struggle between you and your new-ish partner, through the eyes of Shakespeare nonetheless!



You only come across the estate's big iron gate once you venture out of the Old Town for a walk but you soon realise that the estate actually spreads on both sides of the M40, all the way  down to Burnham Beeches forest. In this  expansion of gardens and trees you'll find the Chiltern Shakespear Company setting up camp for two months every summer to perform one of Shakespear's plays. This year they put on The Taming of the Shrew, a comedy, set in Italy.
 
The scene was perfectly set amongst actual trees and colourful structures resembling Padua. Existing garden features, like a little pavilion, formed part of the stage and were incorporated into the scenery. A nice touch was that before the performance and during the break, an actual musician was playing the violin, while children played and chased each other, alongside couples who strolled around medieval Padua.
 
Katherina was positively unbearable, screaming, shouting and even attacking her suitors, her sister and the whole world, for that matter. A misunderstood maiden? 
The actress who played Katherina, made the perfect grimaces to suit her "not so wife-suitable" character.



Then came Petruchio, utterly mad, with a twinkle in his eye. He was vibrant and energetic, equally mad and flustered at times!
He even got his shirt off, to put his colourful and ridiculous wedding clothes on, in an attempt to outsmart Katherina's temper. One for the cheap seats! Hurray!
Just joking, it was laughs and excitement, all in a lively and very green setting.

Half way through the performance it started drizzling down with rain, the spectator seats were covered but the stage wasn't, nobody flinched, the show went on! The rain passed and we were left with this wonderful earthy smell and vibrant green background.


In the end came Katherina's speech, all tamed and agreeable. She spoke of respect and blind commitment, of how she belonged to her husband and how she would run to his every command...hmmm, what just happened? 
I was actually a bit angry at Shakespeare after that speech, how could he speak of such absolute power of one partner over the other?
 


Ancient Greeks used to say that good theatre puts spectators through the process of "katharsis", cleansing in other words;
it's supposed to make you think and feel so strongly, that you absolutely must express your feelings at the end of it - well, I certainly wouldn't shut up afterwards;
I was excited with the outdoors setting, furious with Shakespeare's misogynistic views and amused with this funny and wonderfully put-together performance. 
 

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