"He's a bit of a wild one!" Says Simon about Petruchio, as he discusses his initial impressions of the play and his character.
Time: 3 minutes 44 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Looking at pre-rehearsal, were you familiar with it before? Did you read it?
Simon Paisley Day:
I had read it. I had seen a TV version of it with John Cleese a long time ago but I’ve never seen it in the theatre, amazingly. I hadn’t really read the play either. I did a scene from it when I was at school-the seduction, the wooing scene between Kate and Petruchio-and I hadn’t really read it since then. So I didn’t learn the lines, I read it briefly. I sort of trusted to a six week rehearsal period, thinking “that’s enough to get inside a play and to do it properly.”
What were your initial impressions of the play?
I was aware of it as a controversial piece in these post-feminist times. Not that it doesn’t get done; it’s still very popular, I think, but it’s always sort of shrouded in controversy. You know, “how are you going to do it? How are you going to solve it?” So it was a relief to me when Toby [director] said he was setting it in Elizabethan times because if you set it post-feminism you have to solve it somehow because it’s unpalatable to us. I think, as a period piece, I hope it will be less controversial. I mean, what we seem to be going towards is presenting a woman who is plainly miserable. She’s had no boundaries in modern parenting parlance. She’s had no parameters. She’s got a weak father who sort of gives into her, doesn’t punish her. She’s slightly crazy with her lack of boundaries. No mother on the scene. She’s out of control. She needs controlling in a way because she’s so miserable. So that’s quite interesting, sort of thinking about the play in that sense because I am, you know, hopefully, my new man credentials are in place; I don’t beat my wife, I don’t starve her, I don’t keep her up all night, all that sort of thing and I believe in equal opportunities. It’s difficult or odd playing a bloke who thinks “I’m just gonna starve her and I’m gonna keep her up all night and I’m gonna break her spirit so that she does what I say.”
You’ve touched on it a little bit, but what were your initial impressions of the Petruchio, then?
Well, he’s a bit of a wild one. It’s no accident that Shakespeare made him come from a different town. You’ve got Padua and you’ve got the way things are done in Padua: it’s sort of new money, merchant class, everyone showing off their lovely clothes and how much money they’ve got. Certainly money’s on Petruchio’s mind, but he’s from old Verona. He seems to sort of live…well maybe he lives in Verona. In my mind he lives slightly out of Verona on a farm or, you know, somewhere in the hills and his house is a bit tatty. It’s a real sort of bachelor, draughty place and his clothes sort of fit that; they’re quality but they haven’t been changed them for ten years. He might have washed them but he hasn’t bought new clothes in ten years. He doesn’t care about all that really. So he comes to Padua slightly out of sorts, talking about how his father’s just died and I think that does matter to him because he finds two new fathers in the play: he calls Baptista and Vincentio “father”. So, I think he is a…sort of a lost boy and he’s in his draughty home in Verona, having lost his father, he’s done a bit of womanising in his time and I think he thinks “Ok, I’m going to go to Padua, and I’m going to find a wife and I am going to marry.” So, he’s slightly shiftless and has lighted on this idea as just something to do. “Time to get married. Don’t really care to whom, so long as it’s a load of money.” He’s never been in love before and then he sees Kate and he goes “Oh my God, you are lovely but you’re a cow”, so you know he is absolutely enchanted with her but he obviously sees his challenge set out for him.