For those of you who, like me, are a bit put off by any association with a certain misinformed and troublesome, yet popular work of fiction, don’t let the title fool you. 50 Shades of Shrew makes it’s point to pick up the slack where its namesake is found wanting. And as the premier offering of Broads’ Word Theatre, makes its stamp with classic humor and kinky flair.
Professional Dominatrix Mistress Kara’s detailed introduction set the scene well and served as a guidebook to usher those in the audience who were perhaps less familiar with the BDSM community to the significance of some of the things we were about to witness.
Undertaking any of Shakespeare’s works is daunting enough, but the effort put into translating it into a world with it’s own extensive set of signals, archetypes, tropes, and doing it successfully is even more commendable.
While the text is pared down to a pleasantly brisk 90 minutes, only the fat and fluff is trimmed and the meat of the story remains well intact. And after hundreds and hundreds of performances of traditional strictly male casts, it’s about time the ladies had a turn at the same concept.
Having seen more than one adaptation of “Shrew” on stage and on screen, I can honestly tell you…this is officially the first time that the play has been put in a context that actually makes sense to the modern mindset.
Katharina’s bitterness and anger at being constantly chastised and mocked by her father and his peers has always seemed justified to me. Even more so, the fact that by the end of the play, the core of her character is broken by Petruchio’s “Kill her with Kindness” method always left me with a bad taste in my mouth. However, within the world of Doms and Subs and with an extra emphasis on the importance of consent thanks to Mistress Kara’s prologue, the fireworks between the two come across as much more of a mutually beneficial arrangement rather than archaically abusive and misogynistic. Suddenly, Katharina’s 180 degree turn-around seems more a product of co-op role play and respect instead of brow-beaten kowtowing and desperate resignation. Petruchio’s customary brashness and machismo are exchanged for gentle (yet bawdy) charm and an air of genuine concern when it comes to her intended Kat. Instead of ripping her away from her family for personal gain, she seems to seek to rescue her from a household where her nature is misunderstood and bring her to a new family whose dynamic she is surprised to find may be more suited to her own.
Full of energy and charming performances all around, 50 Shades of Shrew takes a well-worn classic for a corseted spin and creates some interesting new dynamics for familiar characters. It may raise a few eyebrows, but it promises to secure your consent first.