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Taming the Shrew – with a sting in the tale

Some see this play as anti-feminist. A feisty girl is made to eat humble pie and accept her suitor’s dominion. So why stage it in the 21st century, when surely we have outgrown this view of marriage? Review by Corinna Lotz

But is that really what it’s all about? I’ve never seen it in that way, in fact, and I don’t believe that Shakespeare did. And neither did Elizabeth Taylor, already veteran of five marriages when she took the role of Katherina in Zeffirelli’s superb 1967 film version co-starring Richard Burton.

In any case, the story is pure theatre in byMoonlight’s production, which won the Best Theatre Performance at the Brighton Festival this year.

Under Tanju Duncan’s direction, imaginative tweaks to the script add to a bounding sense of farce and fun.

Taming the Shrew

The young cast of 17 make maximum use of the Rose theatre’s big horseshoe shaped space to make for a highly physical, modern dress production.  In Pam Bennett’s choreography the characters move and mime to the tune of Sly’s (Greg Harradine) keyboard.

The heart of the play is, of course, the crazy logic of Petruchio’s (Turan Duncan) wooing of the wild-spirited Katherina (a diminuitive Charlotte Harris). Katherina first appears as a tomboy in a jump suit, bounding across the stage, giving as good as she gets to sister Bianca (Caitlin Joseph), mother Baptista (Sarah Palette) and of course Petruchio himself.

Taming Shrew

The hilarious repartees between the warring parties are the real joy. The sense of fantasy is enlivened by the subplot, in which Christopher Sly (Greg Harradine), a tinker, is made to think he is a rich aristocrat by the mischievous Lord (Michael Skellern). Cross-dressing page (Sebastian Roughley) ironically sings “I’m a Man” – to everyone’s amusement.

The mad Latin lesson, where Lucentio (Andy Currums) woos Bianca in the guise of a Latin teacher interrupted by his rival Hortensio (Wayne Hughes), reveals that the Shrew’s supposedly docile sister is no push-over either.

Infusing a contemporary spirit into the Bard’s creations is what it’s all about. And byMoonlight theatre succeeds in doing just that, amply fulfilling its mission to “create inclusive theatre for all, where people can express themselves freely and let their inner lunacy out”.

12 July 2012

The final of three performances is at the Rose Theatre, Kingston 15 July, part of the International Youth Arts Festival.

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