Bard in the Botanics puts the women front and centre
- Lorna Irvine
- 13 June 2017
Queen Lear, Timon of Athens, Taming of the Shrew and Measure for Measure make up the summer season at Glasgow's Botanic Gardens
Each year, weather permitting, Glasgow's West End plays host to Bard in the Botanics, an outdoor celebration of Shakespeare's most feted and lesser-known works, often with an iconoclastic twist. 2013's excellent re-imagining of Much Ado About Nothing had a gay relationship at its core, while the style of the 60s shaped their production of Twelfth Night last year.
Following a now familiar fashion, this year sees the women front and centre in the four plays for the summer season: in Queen Lear, Janette Foggo takes the lead, Measure for Measure is female focused, and Nicole Cooper becomes the eponymous hero in Timon of Athens. Having already been acclaimed for her take on Coriolanus in 2016, Cooper is more than familiar with gender-swap Shakespeare.
But it's often the divisive Taming of the Shrew which raises eyebrows for its less than lustrous attitude to gender roles, something artistic director Gordon Barr is keen to address.
'For us, it's important not to shy away from some of the difficulties in the representation of women in Shakespeare's plays,' he explains. 'Also, I was fascinated to discover that it might have already been considered fairly controversial in its day. John Fletcher's "sequel" The Tamer Tamed is a very modern, feminist riposte to the play from the early 17th century, and so the idea was born to incorporate material from this late play and give the women in the story a chance to fight back.'
Bard in the Botanics is an established festival in the Glasgow calendar, and has increasingly developed an imaginative take on the classic scripts. With a lineup as strong as this, all clichés of marginalised fair maidens should be quashed: as long as the weather stays fair.
Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, Wed 21 Jun–Sat 29 Jul.