TAMING OF THE SHREW: William Shakespeare.
Heartbreak Productions: Full Tour Info www.heartbreakproductions.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval.
Performance times: Varies with venue.
Review: Alan Geary: Nottingham: 26th August, 2011.
Despite some iffy weather, a satisfying evening.
Heartbreak Productions have had a good summer in Nottingham. And despite some iffy weather this Taming of the Shrew made a satisfying evening.
What ever the play, Heartbreak usually come up with some sort of framing device, so you wondered what director Maddy Kerr was going to do with this one. After all, Shakespeare himself gives us a somewhat superfluous outer play – it’s often dispensed with. In the event, emphasising the feminist issue, Kerr staged the play in 1928, on the day after votes for women finally became law. We were in the grounds of a stately home.
You therefore had to peel off two layers to get to the action proper. But the effort was worth it.
All five actors – not quite sufficient to avoid confusion from too much doubling-up – projected and articulated admirably. Given the witty dialogue, this mattered.
The central players, the lovely Helen Rynne, who played Katherina, and Lawrence Stubbings, as Petruchio, had the essential sexual chemistry to make their parts convincing. In a variety of roles, Phillipa Flynn, Andrew Cullum and Neil Jennings were excellent. Flynn was a blond, nice and demure Bianca, Cullum was terrific as Hortensio, a wide boy; and Jennings was Gremio, with a bizarre but welcome Big Daddy Deep South accent
Audience participation – always a worry with open-air theatre – was kept within the bounds of decency. And a jokey garden-fete set served the production well.
A lot of the film-making scenes – early, flickering and silent – and other neat directorial ideas might have been lost on some of the audience, largely, one would imagine, because they weren’t massively familiar with the basic elements of the play in the first place.
Kate’s final speech was beautifully done. But its impact, and the impact of that final kiss, was partly lost because, what with the anti-climax of the outer play, the evening didn’t know when to stop.
Director: Maddy Kerr.
Designer: Kate Unwin.
Composer and Arranger: Andy Guthrie.