Sport for Jove’s wonderful version of Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is a delicious version of this quite challenging play that had the audience in stitches at times. It has been adapted and transposed by director Damien Ryan to Italy in the 1920’s in the silent film industry with sly digs at the Australian film industry of the time. It is full of exuberant energy and performed with enormous zest.
Damien Ryan’s direction leads to a thought provoking production which questions how the play can be read from a feminist perspective and is delicately aware and nuanced in its approaches to gender politics but doesn’t really provide answers as such , leaving the audience undecided .
Anna Gardiner’s set is rather sparse but with multiple small props and a ladder that is rolled in, out or reversed allowing for many fluid scene changes and retaining the feel of a film production lot .With Sian James-Holland’s evocative lighting, and the use of projected, early cinema style film, the production is a visual feast.
The casting is superb with fine ensemble performances and wonderful work from the leads.
Seemingly the complete opposite to Katharine, Lizzie Schebesta shines as beautiful starlet Bianca who eventually reveals her hidden claws. On the surface, softer and far more the gracious , ideal woman she is as powerful as her sister. Schebesta impresses with her comic timing and graceful agility.
Danielle King as Katherina is brilliantly spitfire and spiky, at times almost feral, and , especially at first, rude and uncouth and delighting to annoy. She breaks convention and seeks to speak her mind and be independent in order to preserve her personal integrity but the dominant patriarchal society insists she does otherwise.
Angela Bauer is enchanting as the alluring Vincentia, prima donna movie star .
Baptista Minola here bossily, solidly played by Robert Alexander is a movie director with two eligible daughters: movie starlet Bianca (Lizzie Schebesta) and the fiery, explosive aviatrix Katharina (Danielle King). Baptista seems more concerned about his daughter’s financial security than their general well being.
The queue for Bianca’s hand includes matinee idols Gremio (Barry French) and Hortensio (Terry Karabelas) and, by proxy, a student, Lucentio (Christopher Stalley), who has his sister Tania (Eloise Winestock) impersonate him while he is in disguise as Bianca’s German governess.
Dashing Terry Karabelas as the vainglorious Hortensio is in fine form and revels in channeling his inner Errol Flynn.
Tall, blonde Christopher Stalley and Eloise Winestock have enormous fun as the scheming cross dressing siblings, Lucentio , (desperately in love with Bianca ) and Tania . Lucentio when in disguise as Bianca’s German governess Fraulein Gretchen is in the awkward situation of being the only character on stage who isn’t able to speak German!
James Lugton plays Petruchio, a dashing naval officer who seeks to ensure his financial future by marrying Katherina. His cruel taming methods almost amount to torture but he is a generally reasonable man who has to use unreasonable methods to get what he wants. The horrendous honeymoon is played aboard Petruchio’s ship, which suffers much rolling!, and then on land.
I enjoyed the neat visual twist that Katharina wears elegant black at her wedding, and it is Petruchio who has the spectacular entrance with a train. In a nice touch Petruchio enters shirtless, trailing a parachute.
The highly controversial speech by Katharina that ends the play, and that theoretically shows her vanquished spirit, is here presented with a troubled, questioning tone and laughs are orchestrated with the concluding projected film.
Petruchio’s servants here become his crew and sing a wonderful sea shanty and there is much fun with the rolling of the ship . Michael Cullen as Grumio , Petruchio’s valet and George Kemp as Biondello, in particular, show off their great comic timing and slapstick skills.
This Sport For Jove production is full of exuberant, boisterous energy with plenty of slapstick and silent film melodrama thrown into the mix.
The jokes hurtle along and Ryan and the cast do a magnificent job of maintaining the blistering pace in this bold production.
Running time allow 3 hours 15 minutes including one interval.
Sport for Jove’s production of TAMING OF THE SHREW is playing the York Theatre, the Seymour Centre until May 28.