Wednesday, March 14, 2012

'The Taming of The Shrew' by William Shakespeare

14 March 2012

On Saturday we were at Milton Keynes Theatre to see Lucy Bailey’s Royal Shakespeare Company production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. This was the first time I had seen a production designed for the thrust stage of the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre performed in a more conventional proscenium arch theatre. The set is a gigantic bed – the shape of the thrust stage reproduced as a padded sloping surface covered by an enormous sheet. It’s a striking sight and emphasises the framing device for this difficult play: it is always clear that the battle between Petruchio and Kate is taking place within Christopher Sly’s dream and should be viewed in that context. Christopher Sly spends most of the play lying beneath a corner of the giant sheet while the players perform upon it. This allows for some lovely comic moments between scenes where Sly is pursued across the stage under the bed-sheet like the bump under the carpet in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. It’s always hard to judge ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ against modern standards: having recently seen ‘The Comedy of Errors’ it struck me that both are early Shakespeare works and lack some of the sophistication of his best plays. They both provide opportunities for slapstick and broad comedy but don’t have the verbal dexterity and deeper meaning of the later works. The RSC production was excellently acted: David Caves and Lisa Dillon were very strong in the leading parts and I also particularly enjoyed the clowning of Gavin Fowler as Lucentio. But the play didn’t grab my attention as strongly as I had hoped and we felt a long way from the action compared to the intimacy of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

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