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Jeanette Cronin plays one of the most sexist scoundrels in dramatic history. Here’s how.
You play Petruchio in a new gender bend-
ing production of Shakespeare’s The Taming
of the Shrew. Did you ever imagine you’d be
playing that part?
No, I can’t say that I’ve ever envisaged play-
ing Petruchio! But now that I have, I think that I
should start looking at all the male parts!
How do you approach playing the opposite
In rehearsals for Shrew, we had a great fight di-
rector and “hormonal consultant” by the name of
Scott Witt who was invaluable to the process. He
reminded us of the simple differences in posture
and gesture. Standing with the legs and arms in
parallel for example, as opposed to turning them
out as we women tend to do; how you brush your
hair from your eyes in a masculine way; placing
your hands on your lower hips, rather than the hip
bones. All these things open up a world of differ-
ence that informs everything you do. I am very
grateful to him.
What in your background prepared you for
this role and can playing a man be a state-
Like every part of our biology we all sit some-
where on a massive sliding scale. And I suppose
we all recognise aspects within ourselves that slide
toward our understanding of male and female. As
an actor you can recognise similarities and dif-
ferences to yourself within a role. But to be fair,
Shakespeare gives you so much in the writing,
that if you listen to him and embrace the inherent
rhythms and the shape of the text he takes you on
a massive ride. As for making a statement... We
worry too much about gender in casting, as we do
with race and age. After all, it is about story. To me
it’s political in that it helps to redress the balance
of roles in the theatre. There are many great male
parts and many, many actresses in need of a great
part — so it seems fair to me to give us a crack.
Some see this play as being about ‘taming’
a woman to become a bride. Is that your
No, not at all. The character of Kate is described
as a shrew, not all women. Petruchio is as hot-
headed and headstrong as Kate. They’re a match.
It’s about love and trust for me, and perhaps the
responsibility that goes with gender. If you are
the physically stronger person in the relationship,
there’s a lot of responsibility in that, and if you’re
the weaker physically, you need to trust the other
person and not abuse that trust. To me, Kate and
Petruchio complete each other. They are rebels
that live outside the law. She’s not happy when we
meet her at the start of the play, throwing furniture
and hurling abuse, and everyone runs a mile when
they see her, but not Petruchio. She’ll give him a
run for his money.
Can we apply a ‘queer’ reading to this pro-
I don’t think there are any intentional ‘queer ’ read-
ings... but probably a few nice side effects! Some-
one did let out an involuntary gasp-like sound
when Petruchio kissed Kate the other night!
Is director Marion Potts aiming for a specific
message by using same-sex casting?
I think she was searching for a way to tell the story
without alienating the modern woman. As an ac-
tor, though, I think there is a lot of buoyancy and
pleasure to be gained through a cross-dressing
cast. Delving into the ‘other’ rewards both actor
and audience with joyful transformation.
What is your favourite moment or scene in
the play and why?
The scene where Kate and Petruchio first meet
is always fun to do. The stakes are high for all
the characters that Petruchio ‘win’ her so audi-
ence and characters alike are waiting for the fire-
Which scene may prove most confronting to
contemporary female audiences?
Kate’s last speech, of course! But to me, it’s a
mistake to try and find an excuse for it or a way
to ‘make it work’. The clues are in the story, the
characters. Kate’s is a journey into womanhood.
It’s very moving. But some people will inevitably
hear the words and miss the meaning as so many
words and phrases are triggers to our condition-
What’s great about being part of a female
The women in our company are compassionate,
sassy, and very talented. And one is never short of
a tampon, a Naprogesic or a hug.
What might intrigue or please lesbians
about this production?
Something I’m sure lesbians appreciate is that
in any relationship the battle isn’t about gender,
it’s about power: “you don’t need a dick to be
a prick.” And perhaps too, that the sexiness of
surrender is personal, not political and the trust
which allows that surrender is above all, humane,
including XX and XY and anything in between.
Oh yeah: and chicks look really good in suits!
For info, dates and bookings go to bellshake-
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