Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Taming of the Shrew , Jan 13, 2009 ***1/2

The Taming of the Shrew 
By William Shakespeare, Australian Shakespeare Company
Where and When: Botanical Gardens until March 14
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2

On a balmy evening after a roasting hot summer’s day, nestling on a blanket with a wine in the Botanical Gardens and watching Shakespeare under the night sky is just the ticket. This year we see Greg Carroll’s uncluttered, bawdy and witty production of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, The Taming of the Shrew.

The play tells the tale of the notoriously sharp-tongued Kate (no relation), the “shrew” of the title, and her seduction, marriage and subsequent taming by the boisterous Petruchio (Brendan O’Connor). This pretty but argumentative Kate (Lucy Slattery) is too forward to be attractive to the men of Padua but she must be married before her younger, more amiable and malleable sister, Bianca (Gemma Bishop) can wed one of her parade of suitors.

Petruchio woos and marries the cantankerous Kate for her money, despite her flaws – then proceeds to tame her in ways grotesque, ridiculous and totally unacceptable to sensitive modern women (and hopefully men too).

O’Connor hilariously macho and rowdy, yet wickedly impish as Petruchio. He courts Kate with sexual innuendo, rough sensuality and outrageously slapstick moves. Kate’s shrewishness is almost totally obliterated by his effrontery.

Terri Brabon, playing Petruchio’s loyal servant, Grumio, creates an entertaining clown double act with O’Connor. They taunt every other character with their manipulative antics. This production emphasises silliness and physicality. For example, Petruchio arrives at his wedding dressed inappropriately in cowboy pants decked with feather boas and a sequined bustiere while Grumio wears a gorilla suit.

The entire ensemble enters the spirit of this goofy style. Bishop is very funny as Bianca, playing the usually milky, dull maiden as a primping, posing, giggling candidate for High School Musical. Ross Williams dodders as her suitor, old Gremio, and Ezra Bix is a foppish Hortensio. There are also the sexy, young men, Lucentio (Hugh Sexton) and Tranio (Simon Mallory) and the dignified father of the brides, Baptista (Phil Roberts).

The simple staging, naughty but playful style and added contemporary references give this play a refreshing new coat of paint.

By Kate Herbert

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