Academic journal article Multicultural Shakespeare

The Taming of the Shrew

Academic journal article Multicultural Shakespeare

The Taming of the Shrew

Article excerpt

Thea Buckley:* The Taming of the Shrew, Globe to Globe. Dir. Haissam Hussain, 26-27 May 2012.

An Equal Partnership: Pakistan's Shakespeare, or Transforming the Shrew

A discussion of the reception of a Pakistani Shakespeare production in England becomes immediately complicated by the rarity of this occurrence. Any such production by its nature functions as a Polaroid photograph fixing in time several slippery variables, in an instantly emblematic snapshot that may later serve as a defining history. It would be similarly simplistic to let the 2012 Urdulanguage London-based production of The Taming of the Shrew (or Ilaaj-E-Zid Dastayaab Hai) serve as shorthand for the complicated and colourful topic of Pakistan's Shakespeare and its reception, Anglophone or otherwise.

The topic is perhaps as complicated and colourful as the critical discussion surrounding Shakespeare's problematic rom-com and its controversially misogynistic story. Shrew is now widely performed in a more egalitarian, global, politically correct twenty-first century society, one that is largely alienated from the play's skewed gendering and its ambiguous resolution. The Urdu Shrew, directed by Haissam Hussain for the Theatre Wallay-Kashf, confronted these temporal, textual, societal, cultural and relational complexities head-on. Future audiences will determine whether the result can be called definitive or pioneering of its genre; for now it is enough to examine the production as a useful sample whereby to gauge its reception by audiences in England. This essay first traces the Urdu adaptation's genesis and performance, and then contextualizes these in a discussion of the issues surrounding its reception.

Bringing the Urdu Shrew to the Globe

The Pakistani Shrew played at Oxford and London, before touring to Rotherham and Bradford, centres with Urdu-speaking communities. The production detailed here is the first of two performed in London from 25-26 May 2012 at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, a location with historical and cultural associations that might suggest an Anglophone audience. Even if this Shrew was performed during the World Shakespeare Festival as well as "Globe to Globe 2012," it was commissioned to highlight the United Kingdom's 2012 Olympics and the accompanying Cultural Olympiad. The UK likewise formed the physical and cultural locus of the world map on the online project A Year of Shakespeare, which documented the WSF productions and situated their host countries. The website was criticized by Alex Huang for its Anglocentric perspective. He complained that the festival was "in large part the London Globe's global Shakespeare" and that the "uses of world maps in this case - informed by a metropolitan bias - reify a sense of British ownership of Shakespeare - both global and English." Despite its indisputably Anglocentric geography, the Globe Theatre has come to represent a physical location for the global celebration of Shakespeare.

At the first Pakistan International Conference on Shakespeare, in 1997, Stanley Wells used the Globe Theatre as a metaphor for global Shakespeare:

This is a symbolically appropriate time for the holding of a conference dedicated to the theme of Shakespeare around the globe. Had I not been speaking here, I should have been taking part in the festivities celebrating the first full season of plays in performance at the newly reconstructed Globe Theatre. (1)

In this way he placed the two occasions and locations on a par. While the Globe had previously hosted visiting foreign productions, 2012 was the first year in which it celebrated these in a Globe to Globe Festival. For Shrew's Pakistani company, including Theatre Wallay head Navid Shahzad, the Globe stage was a global proscenium, as she expressed to Ser Khan:

Pakistan will be participating on a platform which can help promote a liberal view of the country through theatre. ("Localising Taming of the Shrew")

Their performance thus represented a chance to showcase Pakistan's cultural prowess before a global audience. …

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