Article Title:Review: The Taming of the Shrew at Auckland Uni
Author or Credit:Larry Jenkins
Published on:12th October 2007 - 09:16 am
Internet Archive link:
Story ID:5077
Text:Review: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare Adapted and directed by Patrick Graham, Stage Two Productions 11 October 2007, Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre, Auckland Stage Two Productions, the University of Auckland student-led theatre company, has followed up its recent successes staging Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Titus Andronicus with The Taming of the Shrew in an adaptation by up-and-coming gay theatre director Patrick Graham that is sure to cause eyebrows to elevate, making the play (like the '50s Musical Kiss Me, Kate I might add, which was also adapted from Shakespeare) a "play within a play" in a updated fashion. The two sisters, Kate and Bianca, are "kidnapped" by the other cast members and forced to play their parts for some unfathomable reason, and that is the entire plot of the encasing drama. Once that is out of the way, though that theme recurs from time to time during the course of the evening, the cast gets down to some pretty bawdy characterisations, with codpieces like double hernias, willy-nilly gender confusions, makeup which suggests everyone has bubonic plague, and all on a set that consists entirely of scrunched up newsprint and cardboard boxes into which some of them leap at random but which double as furniture. There are a few notable jobs of acting. Tama Boyle's Petruchio is rakish and suitably chauvinistic, and his Kate, Michaela Spratt, is certainly shrewish in a rather hefty and butch way. She possesses the loudest scream I ever heard. Her sister, Bianca, Stephanie Lee, has a certain poetic charm that served her well in the role of the treasured younger sibling waiting in the wings with suitors hanging off every lamppost until the shrewish elder daughter is wedded and out of the way. Chris Olwage in multiple roles made his best impression as the menacing "keeper" of Kate in the role of Baptista's servant, though his later appearance in the final scene as a transvestite "wife" was fetching, disporting marvellous falsetto trills. Paul Letham's Baptista, peering thorough enormous round thick spectacles, cut a world-weary but firm patriarch-ish figure. Gender reversal didn't quite work in the characters of Tranio, Gremio and Grumio (Briena Glusco, Catherine McHattie, and Natalie-Jane Morris) though voices were lowered to navel level. I suppose feminism has become rather passé to the point that The Taming of the Shrew doesn't raise hackles any more and can now safely be regarded as an ironic masterpiece in its own right. It still feels uncomfortable, most potently in that last scene when Kate advises all wives to submit to their husbands by placing their hands under the feet of their spouses, a speech deftly and perhaps a little sardonically delivered by Ms Spratt. Patrick Graham's concept is kept alive by pushing the action and actors, so that at times there is too much going on, at other times almost nothing. I think the aforementioned crushed newspaper strewn about the stage might have been a mistake. Dialogue was often obscured as it scraped about the stage, propelled by sliding bodies and other means. The pace on opening night slowed after a frantic scramble to manageable speed, and the athleticism of the young actors helped to create a commedia del arte feeling, aided by their costumes. Nigel Windsor's lighting design helped to dispel the gloom of the wastepaper set. Larry Jenkins - 12th October 2007    
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