Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Joe Murphy
Reviewer: Michael Gray
This week the grubby red and white circus tent is pitched on the stage of the wonderfully restored Regency playhouse opposite the brewery. This touring The Taming of the Shrew opened in Portsmouth back in June, and has played “wet and windy Cambridge” and “boiling Malta” among many other venues. It’ll finish in Singapore…
This is a predominantly young company, enjoying the doubling and the disguises. A chirpy, cheeky style, reminding us of what Shakespeare’s “little eyasses” must have been like, the boy companies who were so popular with the play-going public.
Christopher Sly, the drunkard who is duped in the Induction, is a cocky Geordie Kate Lamb, later Katerina, is more than a match for Leah Whitaker’s swaggering, flowing-maned Petruchio – “I am rough and woo not like a babe,” she assures us with a knowing look and a bone-crushing handshake. Their first encounter is tense and tentative; Kate is almost eager for their first kiss, but her submissive speech in the closing moments cleverly wrongfoots Petruchio, who is clearly appalled by her effusive abasement, and is reluctant to pocket his winnings.
There is excellent comic support from the company, including Remy Beasley as Tranio and Becci Gemmell as Lucentio, Joy Richardson as the Widow and an asthmatic, cricketing Gremio, Olivia Morgan as the two blondes (Biondello and Bianca), Nicola Sangster as Hortensio and Kathryn Hunt, with a variety of throaty chuckles, as, among others, a long-suffering Grumio and a lovely Yorkshire Baptista.
Joe Murphy’s production has many moments to relish, Kate being left at the church, the horseburgers in cardboard cartons. Corin Buckeridge’s music is well used (these are multi-talented actor/musicians) – some catchy period songs, a cello for the wedding party, Kate’s siren sax to herald the jig. But, rather like the costumes – hunting pink, concert-party flannels, seventies wedding suit – the music lacks a cohesive style. Petruchio as aviator (flying goggles – Grumio his mechanic) is a nice touch for “what happy gale blows you to Padua ?”
It’s a decade since the last all-female Shrew at the Globe, but only last year that Toby Frow’s production was the hit of the season. Best if you can put those two out of your mind, and imagine this fresh and feisty show on a warm evening outdoors, with strawberries in your hamper to match those Bianca shares on stage – Minack in Cornwall will be their last al fresco date !
Run until September 7th, then touring until October 13th