It was only a week prior that I was discussing the so-called problematic themes seen in Shakespeare, with Rhodri Miles and his one man show of Shylock. Further dissection is essential as we continue into his plays and challenge the ideals seen within.
Following on from this is a new version of The Taming of the Shrew is from the Sherman and Scottish based Tron Theatre, with the intent to subvert the contentious elements of the play. The air was alive, on this International Women’s Day and the performance even started with intended division, but with a point. All women and those who identify as women, were invited into the space first (as we men eagerly waited outside), making a clear distinction about the direction this show was going in.
Jo Clifford’s new take on Shrew is a success, funny and often insightful although there are a few pitfall in changing the story this way. By creating this gender reversal, the piece could fall foul of finger wagging and bemoaning males who act (in what is in anyone’s eyes) in disrespectful ways. Thankfully, the show did not become a theatrical equivalent of the recent and now infamous Gillette commercial.
What we do get is a slick production, with tight direction by Michael Fentiman. The songs are an extra, welcome element making the piece much more accessible and all the more stylised in the process. The intimate studio space almost makes it fell like a gig, with the blistering musical interludes. We’ll put aside the terrible Spanish pronunciation in a cover of The Gypsy Kings though. Returning to the themes, what the show has triggered is debate and what outcome of subverting such ideas.
Matt Gavan and Scarlett Brookes
We are treated with an acting ensemble of marvellous proportions. Scarlett Brookes is a cocky Petruchio, mean and full of banter, just what the part needs. Matt Gavan is Katherina (or Kate), forced into a corner and made to submit to the strengths of Petruchio. There is a boyish charm here, with ample rage as the Shrew, standoffish in most parts of the show, only at the end yielding. Hannah Jarrett-Scott is Lucentio, making great comic use out of her electric guitar and other musical episodes. A Scots charm is on display here anytime she’s on stage.
Louise Ludgate and Claire Cage, playing several roles between them both, proving talent in their pores and often in the telling reactions to the absurd story at play. François Pandolfo is a fierce and catty Bianca, getting many chances to be seen as a receiver of BDSM, multiple dress wearing moments and other eye bulging endeavours. He gets away with it as he is usually honest, mincing around the stage with a liberating swagger. Alexandria Riley is also a close up display of acting talent, with humour and one swinging singing voice that I want to hear again.
The set by Madeleine Girling is an exposing space, a bronze like ring which the actors get to march around in and on. A curtain surrounding it also creates mood and furthers illusions to the gender bending dynamics of the show. A golden female statue spotted on the balcony looms over certain scenes, another apparent marker about the ideas within the show.
Dare I say, this is a version of Shrew which won us over with its style, perhaps making the battle of the sexes second fiddle? More food for thought…
The Taming of the Shrew continues at Sherman Theatre till 16th March 2019, then Tron Theatre, Glasgow 20th to 30th March 2019.
Images: Mark Douet