TAMING OF THE SHREW to 18 Feb 2012

TAMING OF THE SHREW: William Shakespeare
RSC, RST till 18 February 2012
Runs: 3 hrs, one interval
Review: Rod Dungate, 25 01 12

Disturbing at its core; patchy round the edges.

Director Lucy Bailey’s command of this production is a bit mixed. Yet it’s strength – which is it’s disturbing power – owes much to the two central actors and, probably, to Bailey’s work with them.

Thematically this is one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays. You can change the focus of the anti-Semitism of Merchant (as was done so brilliantly in the most recent RSC production); but in Shrew there’s no getting away from Shakespeare’s message – ‘if you want your wife to do what you want, then beat her up and mentally torture her, she’ll learn.’ And here, Bailey, with Lisa Dillon and David Caves go for it. At the end of the play Kate is ripping off her clothes as fast as Petruchio.

I was horrified; so much so it made me think.

Battered women, in our real world, don’t comply ironically with their abusive spouses. Too often the trap they are caught in has them saying – ‘He loves me; he doesn’t mean to do it.’ Often it takes time to enable them to see how they are ensnared. Is this where our Kate’s at? And at that moment Petruchio may love her – and he may love her when he’s smacking her around.

From this pair; two gorgeous performances. Kate is feisty enough – but it is the way that she physically encapsulates her performance that makes it outstanding. From the outset she is both bold and vulnerable. There is a sense that this Kate doesn’t know herself why she’s so unhappy; a mental state that feeds upon itself. But the very nastiness with which the other characters ridicule her draws our sympathy to her. Although she’s difficult – even unpleasant – we despair that she should be bought and sold as a good or a chattel. It’s wonderful.

And David Caves? Well, he’s certainly swaggeringly sexy. But what a nasty piece of work. Working with his sidekick – servant Grumio – he is the acme of alpha machismo.

Lovely physical comedy from Simon Gregor (Grumio) and Huss Garbiya (Biondello). Elsewhere, too frequently, there’s a lot of shouting and funny-voice acting (which is, of course, never funny.) Terence Wilton is a totally believable old chap, much troubled by the world’s troubles.

Why Bailey retains the dreary and pointless prologue is a mystery. It seems endless, and gives rise to many caesuras between acts, no doubt to give it point, which is pointless, since it has no real point.

Christopher Sly: Nick Holdenr
Marian Hacket: Janet Fullerlove
Cicely Hacket: Laura Wells
Lord: Adrian Lukis
Bartholomew: Hiran Abeysekera
Baptista Minola: Terence Wilton
Kate: Lisa Dillon
Bianca: Elizabeth Cadwallader
Maid: Laura Wells
Petruchio: David Caves
Lucentio: Gavin Fowler
Vincentio: Paul Herzberg
Gremio: David Rintoul
Hortensio: Sam Swainsbury
Tranio: John Marquez
Biondello: Huss Garbiya
Grumio: Simon Gregor
Curtis: Jonathan Livingstone
Peter: Tom Berish
Nathaniel: Kieran Knowles
Joseph: Terence Wilton
Philip: David Rintoul
A Courier: Col Farrell

A Widow: Janet Fullerlove
A Tailor: Paul Herzberg

Directed by: Lucy Bailey
Designed by: Ruth Sutcliffe
Lighting Designed by: Oliver Fenwick
Music by: John Eacott
Sound Designed by: Jeremy Dunn
Movement by: Liam Steel
Fights by: Terry King
Company Text and Voice Work by: Charmian Gradwell
Assistant Director: Eleanor While
Assistant Movement: Naomi Said
Music Director: Bruce O’Neil
Casting by: Helena Palmer

2012-01-27 16:29:46

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