Shakespeare wrote his many plays, sonnets, etc over 400 years ago, when times were very different. Should his work, therefore, be judged against current standards of morality and political correctness? Well, probably not but I have a confession to make. There is one Shakespeare play that I have assiduously avoided. This is mainly because I have thought that no matter how the text is treated, the basic premise of the play will always be wrong from every standpoint and, rather than be entertained, I will end up incensed by the production. However, I was recently persuaded to give it a go and so headed to the Jack Studio Theatre to see Lazarus Theatre Company’s production of The Taming of the Shrew.
The production starts before it starts and, there is a great deal going on as the audience take their seats, so it is definitely worth being at the front of the queue to go in when the bell rings. However, once the play proper starts, we are introduced to Sly (Gareth Balai) for whom this production is being staged. Then we are transported to Padua in Northern Italy, Where Baptista (Dawn Bush) has a problem. The problem is, her two daughters. The younger Bianca (Sabrina Laurison) is perfect in looks and demeanor. She is permanently being chased by suitors who would like to make her their wife. Chief among these are local men Hortensio (Shiv Rabheru) and the elderly Gremio (CJ de Mooi). However, Baptista will not let Bianca be wooed or marry until her elder daughter Katherina (Charlotte Dowding) is wed. Unfortunately, Katherina is known locally for being, wilful, headstrong and never guarding her tongue, in fact a ‘shrew’ and her suitors are numbered as zero. That is until an old friend of Hortensio’s by the name of Petruchio (Mathew Foster), along with his servant Biondello (Rachel Smart) arrives in town with the intent of enjoying life and finding himself a wife. Hortensio suggests that Petruchio woo and marry Katherina and this he readily agrees to do, claiming that not only will he marry and tame ‘Kate’ he will get her to love him. Hortensio’s plan is looking good but, in an unfair twist, when the tall, handsome Lucento (Samuel Lane) arrives and falls for fair Bianca. In order to meet and woo Bianca without her mother’s knowledge, Lucentio and his servant Tranio (Evangeline Dickson) change identities so servant becomes master and master become a learned scholar giving Bianca lessons. Of course, nobody will be marrying Bianca unless Petruchio can work his magic on Katherina and that will be no walk in the park for him.
Oh, William, why did you write The Taming of the Shrew? No matter how hard one tries to think like someone from the late 1500s, it is impossible to not to get annoyed by the subject of this play which boils down to this. On marriage, a woman ceases to be a human and becomes her husband’s property to do with as he wishes. Of course, those ideas no longer hold true and – let’s be honest – Petruchio’s actions would now lead straight to a divorce court if he was lucky following a long chat with the folks in the blue uniforms about his physical and mental abuse of his spouse.
Right, I’ve got that off my chest, so let’s turn to the production. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole show from start to finish.The adaptation of the text by Writer/Director Sara Reimers really works. There is so much humour in the show that it is impossible to stay grumpy at the underlying story for too long. Even Kate’s last speech is delivered in such a way that, and maybe this is just hope on my part, made it seem that just maybe, she had been fooling Petruchio and may have actually had the upper hand herself.
There was a nice dynamic to the cast that worked extremely well. It felt as if everyone was constantly supporting each other and if something happened, would jump in and rescue their fellow performer if it was needed. The performances were a nice mixture of styles, from CJ de Mooi’s fabulously over-the-top Gremio to Mathew Foster’s measured performance as Petruchio – the original ‘man with a plan’ if ever there was one, each character was nicely portrayed, though I have to say, apart from the odd moment, Sly didn’t really do much, but he seemed to have a good time so maybe that’s no bad thing. This was true also of Bianca who did surprisingly little. Possibly this was due to the way the story had been abridged but I just felt there should be more to her tale than there actually was. As far as the production went, I loved Rachel Dingle’s set, which actually starts outside the theatre. Played in the round, with some fascinating costume and music choices, this production of The Taming of the Shrew. works very well at grabbing and holding its audience’s attention from the beginning.
Overall then, whilst I haven’t changed my mind fully about The Taming of the Shrew. I will admit that I did have a thoroughly enjoyable time watching this production. The debate over the misogyny and abuse within the story will no doubt rumble on throughout time but, if you do wish to see a highly energetic and entertaining version of the play, then this is the one I would recommend.
Southern Baptist Sissies
Above the Stag is a theatre that specialises in putting on LGBT+ shows. I’ve been there a couple of times previously and seen some very well produced and very funny plays about gay life. So, I was really looking forward to another visit last night to see their latest show, the European premiere of Southern Baptist Sissies by Del Shores.
This is the story of four people emerging from childhood and becoming adults. These boys are all from the great state of Texas – the ‘buckle’ in the bible belt – and all are regular attendees at their small town Baptist church presided over by a real old fashioned ‘wrath of God’ style preacher (Stephen Parker). The four boys are all really good friends who each bring something different to the group. So, there is preacher’s son Mark (Jason Kirk) the thinker, TJ (Daniel Klemens) the brawn, Andrew (Hugh O’Donnell) the introverted and…
The Chemsex Monologues at the King’s Head Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet
Some of you may have heard of an app called Grindr. It is a social app for gay men that enables them to chat and arrange to meet up. Okay, it may be a bit more than that but once again I must remember my mother reads these things. Anyway, if I was to download it and switch it on now, two things would become apparent very quickly. The first is that a lot of people take really bad photographs which seem to cut off their heads and the second is that the world is divided into those that say ‘chems OK’ and those that say ‘No Chems’. Being firmly on the ‘No Chems’ side, it is interesting to delve, if only briefly, on the other. Such an opportunity is available as Patrick Cash’s play The Chemsex Monologues makes a welcome return to the King’s Head Theatre in Islington.
As the title suggests, The Chemsex Monologues are a series …
https://www.londontheatre1.com/news/185309/review-the-busy-world-is-hushed-finborough-theatre/ Michael James and Mateo Oxley – Credit Scott Rylander
Let’s start this review off with a quote “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.” If you aren’t sure where this is from I will let you know at the end of the review. However, this quote get’s nicely to the central crux of Keith Bunin’s play The Busy World is Hushed which is having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre.
Hannah (Kazia Pelka) is a happy Episcopalian minister and widow. She is working on a book about a recently discovered gospel which may predate the ‘famous four’ – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – and, if the dates work out correctly, may have been written just after the death of Jesus. Like many academic types, Hannah is really enthralled by her work but dreads the thought of writing it out, so she is interviewing Brandt (Mateo Oxley) for the position of gh…