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The Taming of the Shrew

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

When boy meets girl in Shakespeare’s frothy but terminally unreconstructed rom-com, the so-called happy ending has always been at best questionable. Jo Clifford’s gender-bending new reading of the story of how Katherina learnt to succumb to Petruchio’s will proceeds to turn the play’s world upside down, break every rule going and run with it to make a whirlwind piece of queer-core cabaret inspired subversion.

Here, Katherina is a boy, a bratty swot with ideas above his station and a serious attitude problem. Kate isn’t at all like his himbo brother Bianca, who only wants to serve the women who run the world as they woo him into willing submission. Petruchio, meanwhile, is a woman who, enjoying the challenge of Kate’s resistance to her charms, is on a mission, and won’t put up with any of Kate’s nonsense, no matter how much he refuses to put out.

Over a rollicking 75 minutes, Michael Fentiman’s co-production between the Tron and their enterprising fellow travellers at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff deconstructs and reinvents Shakespeare’s original as one might with the wheel, yet, with the aid of Claire Cage’s comic pedant, somehow manages to keep the central thrust of the play’s story intact.

Scarlett Brookes takes no prisoners as Petruchio, Kate is played by Matt Gavan like an indie-kid Rik Mayall, with Francois Pandolfo a quasi-coquettish Bianca and Louise Ludgate simply magnificent as the matriarchal Baptista. If the play’s central relationship has a combative air, it is heightened by Madeleine Girling’s mini circus ring styled set, while Danny Krass’ sound design is given a live kick by the musical double act of Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Alexandria Riley.

While there is some seriously incendiary stuff going on here concerning the rich and ever changing tapestry of gender politics, making sex mosaics as they go, there is such an irreverent tone at the show’s heart that it’s clear everyone is having a cross-gendered ball.

The Herald, March 22nd 2019



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