October 8, 2008

Rip-Roaring Reworking of the Bard’s Battle of the Sexes

There's a glut of Shakespeare around at the moment, with two versions of Macbeth, Frantic Assembly's Othello, a burlesque children's take based on a Midsummer Night's Dream, and this take on The Taming of The Shrew.

Not that we can ever have too much of the bard, or that's what I think, especially when we have traditional performances alongside hilarious, innovative, iconoclastic, free-flying stagings like this one.

The Taming of The Shrew is one of Shakespeare's plays that can stand reworking, since its subject matter is the age-old battle of the sexes, relevant to all times and all cultures. In essence the narrative concerns two sisters, the apparently sweet Bianca, and Kate who is shrewish indeed. Despite having several suitors, Bianca cannot marry before her older sibling does. And who would marry such a difficult woman? But along comes Patrick. He wants a wife - and he's not interested in pretty, fluffy-headed, conventional women, but seeks a spirited partner. Sparks may fly, to be sure, but he and Kate are clearly a match in the internecine sexual stakes.

Miracle transfer the action to a university city today, hatchet the text and intersperse it with modern dialogue, and masses of hugely expressive mime. Then they add music, and throw in every kind of physical theatre - there's a fantastic storm, and occupants of the front get showered from Kate's soaked and tattered wedding dress. The action zips by so fast that you have to work hard to keep up with the cross dressing, gender bending and multiple complications. And all with just a cast of five supremely versatile performers who must regrettably remain anonymous since no programmes were available. But make no mistake, the company never loses sight of the play's core, in which a loving relationship is founded on mutual respect and understanding rather than on ephemeral romanticism.

This frolic can't fail to entertain.

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