Theatre review: The Taming of the Shrew, Rose Theatre, Kingston-upon-Thames
Propeller Arts is an all-male-troupe, which is unusual in itself when gender-blind casting in Shakespeare is on the rise and more women are taking leading male roles.
In this production, which forms a double bill on alternate nights with Twelfth Night, the players’ gender doesn’t bring much extra to the play (in fact, you forget that Bianca and Kate are men under their dramatic makeup and frilly dresses), but Propeller puts on a beguiling show nonetheless, with outrageous costumes and plenty of slapstick. It’s vibrant, silly and very saucy -- visual gags abound.
Good-for-nothing drunkard Christopher Sly becomes Petruchio (played with swaggering charm by Vince Leigh) in a dream, adding layers to the latter’s misogyny, which initially is played for laughs before becoming far more sinister in the second half. Petruchio arrives at his wedding in cowboy boots and tasselled jacket, a T-Shirt with a dollar sign, a bottle of vodka and a thong, which he takes great pleasure in flashing.
Meanwhile wild Kate, played by Dan Wheeler, is a modern-day punk-goth hybrid in black tutu, eyeliner and a shock of white-blonde hair. She (quite literally) doesn’t pull her punches and could definitely take Petruchio in a fight, which serves to emphasise Petruchio’s manipulative prowess and psychological grip on her. It’s an interesting comment on domestic violence against both men and women. Wheeler plays Kate without a hint of attraction to Petruchio or a smidgen of malleability, which makes her final act of total and sudden submission shocking and all the more poignant.
Shakespeare’s script is mostly adhered to, but additions come in the form of musical interludes with song, a saxophone and electric guitars (which, like most of the props, get smashed up — it’s all very physical stuff, like watching a pub brawl stretched over two hours). Other amendments to the text come from the frequent excited old man noises emitted by John Dougall’s pensionable and worryingly randy Gremio and the extra line, “bullshit”, muffled by a cough, yet distinctly heard.
While not endorsed by the other characters, Petruchio’s unbridled violence to his wife is not resolved in a harmonious partnership, instead we are left with the unsettling suggestion that Sly will now return to his real-life wife and repeat the brutality played out in his dream. It’s not all dark though. Go for Propeller’s ingenious wit and ability to extract energy and humour from almost every line.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Kermit the Frog has a new girlfriend named Denise
- 2 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 3 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
JK Rowling announces Harry Potter's son is starting at Hogwarts
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
Loose Women poll asking if rape is 'ever a woman's fault' sparks backlash
James Bond is a 'very lonely, sexist misogynist', says Daniel Craig
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be