Fans of Shakespeare, I’m sorry to break it to you: you might not think the same way about The Bard after you see Gillian English’s new show, 10 Things I Hate About The Taming of The Shrew. English brings her unique take on life to Sydney Comedy Festival’s Factory Theatre.
English’s comedy is effervescent and a mile-a-minute. She’ll make you think as much as she’ll make you laugh. This is why we’re such huge fans of hers at The Plus Ones, giving her rave reviews over the years in both Sydney and Melbourne. When I wanted advice on which shows I should review this year, I asked our head comedy writer in Sydney, Elli (responsible for our guide to the best SCF shows). English was one of the shows she told me I simply had to try to see. And I’m thrilled she did.
Gillian English hails from Nova Scotia, Canada, but for the past few years has been living in Hobart — but not full-time. She travels the world, taking her award-winning shows (‘She Wolf’, ‘Giant and Angry’) to Edinburgh and beyond. Clad in a sparkly jumpsuit, we know we’re in good hands: not only is she a professional comedian, but she also has a Master’s from top British drama school LAMBDA. No one else is better suited to take us through this comedic ride.
While the title references the play ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, there’s no need to bone up on Shakespeare — English masterfully re-tells the whole plot at the start of the show. Fans of the film 10 Things I Hate About You, its modern re-telling, might be astonished at the gaslighting and spousal torture in the original. English compares how it used to be in Ye Olden Times with what it means to be a woman today. (Answer: not great, especially when you’re six feet tall, with breasts, by the age of 10 as she was.)
English hold’s the audiences’ attention every second she’s on stage. We barrel along, riffing on her dad’s efforts to teach her how to gouge out eyes, with what the meaning of the song ‘Cruel to Be Kind’ really is. She banters with the audience, reflects on what it’s like dating an Aussie in Tasmania, and all the while, opens our eyes to how it’s not so great to laud a play that celebrates domestic violence. She does all of this while making us laugh every few seconds. And yes, she does go through all 10 things she hates about ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.
Gillian English captures the stage, and our attention. She leaves us gasping for breath, while changing the way we think. Up-ending the status quo? Why, that’s the opposite of what Shakespeare did. We’re fortunate we have English to help us be better people — and keep us entertained while she does so. She’s a master of her craft.
Co-founder of The Plus Ones, Theresa can’t wait to see future Gillian English shows.
Gillian English – 10 Things I Hate About The Taming of The Shrew runs 23-29 April 2019 at The Factory Theatre, Marrickville, at 9.30pm (8.30pm Sunday). Buy tickets now.
The theatre is not accessible.