Making a sixteenth century Shakespearean comedy appeal to a twenty-first century audience is a daunting task, but Article 19’s take on The Taming of the Shrew left the audience in stitches. Set in Padua, it portrays a battle between the sexes in which Petruchio sets out to tame his vicious and feisty bride Kate, known as a ‘shrew’ for her sharp tongue.
The adaptation stuck to the original script and included the original framing device, often omitted in some performances, where a nobleman puts on a play to trick a drunken Christopher Sly. This seemed slightly unecessary, as although it was meant to be comical, it was one of the actor’s wigs accidentally falling off that drew the most laughter from the audience.
The play really got going when the main characters burst onto the stage squabbling with each other and talking over one another. The music throughout brilliantly complemented this, evoking both the chaos of the play and the Italian setting very well. Zoe Fabian’s spirited portrayal of Kate was very compelling- playing her as vicious at first but later revealing her vulnerable side when she believes she has been stood up at the altar by Petruchio.
It is in the dashing Petruchio, played by Jack J. Fairley, that Kate meets her match. The scene in which they first meet was the highlight of the play for me. The chemistry between the two actors was incredible and they really brought to life Shakespeare’s sexual innuendos and the characters’ witty sparring.
Other standout performances came from Jamie Hughes playing Gremio: a wealthy elderly suitor of Kate’s sister, Bianca. Hobbling about the stage with his cane, he was the most believable character and had me and my friend in tears of laughter with his patronising voice and false laughter. Andy Baker was also hilarious as bumbling servant Biondello, whilst simultaneously suggesting that his character is actually more socially aware than the others. It almost seems unfair to pick out certain performances though, as the entire cast were genuinely excellent.
What was particularly unique about this production was the way it encouraged audience participation, such as when the cast sat alongside the audience to watch the wedding ceremony- transforming the audience into fellow guests. The brilliantly raucous ending had us in stiches but most of all, and perhaps most importantly, you could tell that the cast were having a good laugh too. Because of this they were able to bring one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies to life. On the basis of this performance, I would highly recommend that UoB students go and watch future Article 19 performances; great theatre at a great price, right on your doorstep
By Ellicia Pendle @elliciapendle