Theatre review: The Taming of the Shrew – Sport for Jove, The Seymour Centre (Performances until 28 May 2016)

The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare’s tale of a woman “tamed” by a man, has seen many adaptations over the years, but perhaps none so clever as the latest offering from Sport for Jove. Set in Hollywood during the silent film era of the 1920s, a time of strong women – both on the silver screen and in the streets for women’s Suffrage – we see film star Bianca (Lizzie Schebesta) being fought over by her co-stars Hortensio (Terry Karabelas) and Gremio (Barry French). However, her father Babtista (Robert Alexander) has proclaimed that she will not marry until her elder sister Katharina (Danielle King) is wed first, trouble is she is the most feared of beings – a shrew – and no man will touch her. Hortensio and Gremio are united in their search to find a man to tame the shrew and Hortensio employs the skills of his friend Petruchio (James Lugton) who is keen to wed.

In the meantime Lucentio (Christopher Stalley) has arrived in Padua with his sister Tania (Eloise Winestock) and stumbled upon the sound stage where Bianca is rehearsing. Instantly falling for her, he poses as a female tutor to get close to her while his sister pretends to be him. It is always a little surprising when Katharina allows herself to become engaged to Petruchio, but this highly anticipated moment allows Bianca’s suitors to pounce. Petruchio takes his new bride on his ship and sets about taming her by claiming no food is cooked well enough for her and no hat is beautiful enough for her, she is robbed of sleep and starved until eventually she agrees with him that the sun is in fact the moon.

The end of Shrew is always slightly galling. Bianca is now married to Lucentio and Hortensio to a rich widow, and the men compete for who has the most obedient wife. Surprisingly it is Katharina and we see the pair walk hand in hand off into the sunset. However Sport for Jove somewhat soften the misogynistic blow delivered by Shakespeare by screening a film of the couple in the style of a black and white home movie. In the film the pair are boarding Katharina’s plane and Hortensio looks terrified. While he may have tamed the shrew, in this instance at least, she’s the one in control.

The stage design was exceptional, in particular the use of a screen as an addition to the plot was a clever move and perfectly in keeping with the Hollywood setting. The cast were brilliant, in particular the dynamic between Lugton and King as Petruchio and Katharina is comedic gold. Sport for Jove never cease to amaze with their clever and contemporary approach to some of Shakespeare’s most popular, and sometimes unpopular works, leaving their audience enraptured and thoroughly entertained.

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The Taming of the Shrew is playing at the Seymour Centre until May 28. For more information and to book tickets head to the Seymour Centre website.