mon 15/07/2024

Actress Lisa Dillon on taming the Shrew | reviews, news & interviews

Actress Lisa Dillon on taming the Shrew

Actress Lisa Dillon on taming the Shrew

The RSC's latest Kate explains how she aims to play Shakespeare's fieriest heroine

'You have to be very inventive in how you overpower someone who is six foot three when you're five foot two': Lisa Dillon's Kate and David Caves' Petruchio

I have never seen another Kate so I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about the role. I was incredibly excited to play this woman in a play which is regarded as so heavily misogynistic and very much a battle of the sexes - to make this Kate very specific and individual and not just a sweeping generalisation of what it is to be a “woman” living in a patriarchal society.

How do you go about doing that? I do believe it’s in the play, that she is as much a victim of her own behaviour as she is of the society she lives in. She has to take responsibility for that. Nobody can exist in a patriarchal society or outside one where your behaviour is so rebellious, vulgar, crass: you will always be the outsider unless something changes. As much as she is reactive she has a really stubborn will, and therefore there is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms her behaviour: if people keep on labelling her as the shrew, she will become one. It’s a question of how you break that cycle. In that sense her story has parallels with addiction. You’ve got to remove something and almost go into detox in order to be a better human being. And that’s what Petruchio does: he gives her the detox of her life.

It’s very key that there is no mother. There is a second child younger than Kate who is idolised and exhibits incredibly virtuous behaviour which Kate perceives as playing for her father’s attention. But at some point you have to believe that something just went wrong for Kate. She didn’t marry at 18: she wasn’t ready and rejected suitors and then this behaviour developed whereby she’s been teased and taunted and called every name under the sun and nobody will go near her and then she becomes violent and aggressive as a result. But that kind of behaviour is a protection. It’s like emotional armour.

She has to remain triumphant. We want Kate to win somehow

When we meet Kate she has no future. Life is over already for someone far too young. And had Petruchio not arrived she would probably become more isolated, maybe have been certified insane and she would have gone from shrew to witch. And that would be destiny. There is no breaking that. There is something about this man who is not as masterful as he thinks he is –but something happens between them and they almost save each other. He craves a certain structure in his life and she is everything chaotic but together they find balance. Or hope to.

The challenge is how not to make Kate the victim. Once she becomes a victim, you go into that area of domestic violence which is not the story we’re telling at all. She has to remain triumphant. We want Kate to win somehow. You have to be very inventive in how you overpower someone who is six foot three when you're five foot two.

As for her submission, I don’t think there is any giving other than that she reaches an understanding of how to be with another human being. When you put fire with fire it’s explosive and at some point somebody has to become water: she takes it on herself to be that through what she has learnt by Petruchio. She has almost been saved by him and it should be hopeful and optimistic and glorious that they can go on to have a relationship that nobody else comes even close to. It’s still bohemian and, up to a point, anarchic, but without the mess. She is suddenly given a future.

Watch the RSC's (wordless) trailer for The Taming of the Shrew

If people keep on labelling Kate as the shrew, she will become one. It’s a question of how you break that cycle

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