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24 September 2014

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Interview - Sally Wainwright

The Taming of the Shrew

Writing The Taming of The Shrew - page one


Writer Sally Wainwright is probably best known for the BAFTA and Emmy-nominated series At Home With The Braithwaites, which ran for four seasons on ITV. She's also written for Coronation Street and Children's Ward, and wrote BBC drama Sparkhouse as well as the BAFTA-nominated Canterbury Tales episode The Wife of Bath's Tale.

We asked her about her version of The Taming of the Shrew.

How did you feel when you were asked to adapt The Taming of the Shrew?

I was very excited by The Taming of the Shrew, because I'd seen a fantastic production of it at the Globe about a year earlier, with Janet McTeer as Petruchio. It was stunning, brilliantly thrilling and exciting, one of those ones where you come out exhilirated.

And then when the BBC asked me to do it I was just delighted. I don't know if they thought it was important that a woman did The Taming of the Shrew because it's traditionally thought to be a sexist play.

By the time I'd finished thinking about it and writing the first draft, I'd decided that I wanted the shrew to be both of [the main characters]. I want, by the end, the feeling that they've both been tamed equally.

In the big speech at the end [in which Kate says she'll put her hands under her husband's feet if he asks her], what I wanted to put across was that if you're sufficiently in love with somebody, those things come naturally, and you don't feel that you're being compromised at all. It's something you do willingly, and the point at the end is that they'll do it mutually for each other.

How did you come up with the politics-based setting for this version?

The challenge of how to do it was another step again, because I had to come up with a modern scenario in which a a perfectly able, intelligent, modern woman in contemporary society would get married, broadly speaking, against her will.

Politics seems to be the only area where you do still see people pairing up because it appears to be a good thing to do for their image. So that's why I decided to put Kate in a situation where the leader of her party suggests to her that her career might be enhanced if she softened her image by getting married.

So it's not a condition that's imposed on her exactly, it's more something that she imposes on herself. But I think there's a turning point in the play where she does actually fall for Petruchio, and he falls for her. At some level it's got to be a love story, I think.

What bit of the finished product are you proudest of?

Shirley and Rufus' performances are just stunning.

They absolutely got it and they brought everything to it that you'd want an actor to bring to it. They made it just as big and bonkers as I wanted it to be, they totally got the spirit of it. They shine, head and shoulders above everyone else.

I always wanted Shirley to be Kate, right from the beginning. We didn't talk to anyone else and she said yes. Petruchio was different. I think he's fantastic, but Rufus was not somebody I was aware of. I wanted Eddie Izzard for Petruchio - and [Rufus has] played him not unlike Eddie Izzard, in a way.

Do you think people will watch it to spot the Shakespeare references?

I hope so. They're the ones that you're really writing it for - the ones that will be interested in what you've done but won't be snobby about it, and go, "Oh they shouldn't do this", because of course people do it all the time.

Shakespeare did it. The Taming of the Shrew was taken from a play called The Taming of A Shrew. It was a popular genre, the wife-taming genre, back in the sixteenth century.

I don't know how interesting it will be to people who aren't interested in Shakespeare and haven't seen the original. But I'm always surprised by how many people are very interested in Shakespeare - you think it's a specialised area, but it's amazing how many people are very interested in it and conversant with it, people you wouldn't have expected.

So what policies would Kate have as Prime Minister?

Ha ha! I hope now that she's got married to Petruchio her world view has shifted slightly and she's a bit more warm.

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