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.
Review: Of Mice and Men
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?
Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings
The actor has confessed to his own insecurities
Allotments are the focus of a new reality show
Arts & Ents blogs
The best movies on Netflix: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
Record Store Day 2014: Best exclusives coming to a UK independent record shop near you
Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
Lady Gaga and Ozzy Osbourne's lyrics named hardest to understand
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Are you turning into your dad? The top ten signs you've embraced dad-ism revealed as survey says 38 is age men turn into their father
- 2 Overheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark