1 of 2
Taming of the Shrew
2 of 2
The Taming of the Shrew
On Thursday night, I ventured out to find the English Drama School Theatre, not an easy task considering that it doesn’t have a sign on it and the streets in the neighbourhood are all very narrow. When I did find it, I was welcomed with a made-up bar serving homemade sangria, white wine or red wine. A fresh start for what I believed would be a nice twist to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. In director Julian Wickham’s words, the play isn’t a simple comedy, it has a different humour: “not British wit but an international one, one that everybody gets…” and so I took my seat waiting for this said humour to win me over.
The Taming of the Shrew, in Wickham’s adaptation, is set in modern-day Hollywood, where theatre director Petrucchio and his protégé Lucientio travel after having lost all their money in London. Once in America, they meet Hollywood starlet Bianca and her intimidating sister Katherine. The plot goes on and off about love, rivalry and Petrucchio’s struggle to prove that theatre is better than film in every way. The start was a bit confusing, as Baptista, Bianca and Katherine’s father tries to introduce the setting of the story. As time goes on, one slowly begins to understand the flow of the tale and is able to dismiss the lack of better sound and lighting.
By the third scene, however, I was getting anxious as to when the story would speed up. Lucientio surprised me with his silliness and witty comments that made up for the slowness of the story’s continuance. But then there was the clichéd love-at-first sight spark with Bianca, which just didn’t convince me straight away. However, the amazing Katherine transformed what could have been a cheesy love story; Clare Tutte was spectacular from the beginning. Her snappy attitude and egocentric self complemented the character of the single, boring sister who prevents a more outgoing, naïve and somewhat shallow Bianca from getting on with her love life.
Furthermore, Pettruchio (Niall Gallagher) proved to be the perfect man for stubborn and serious Katherine. Together, Gallagher and Tutte managed to make The Taming of the Shrew more than simply the popular, trivial play that I had expected.
The funny remarks about Americans and Britons brighten up some of the dull scenes in which you began to wonder whether time was passing at all. Yes, the play was a bit too long. The extra time just wasn’t necessary. Forced fight scenes, some random gatherings and what seemed to be a rushed, improvised wedding between Tranio and Carey Potts, both very important extras who kept Pettruchio and Lucentio on the right track. But there were times when the dialogue got too confusing, some of the basics were not polished enough and it was tough to keep track of what the point of such scenes really was.
The theatre still has work to do, some lighting and curtains could help, but for now it is quite impressive to see how this group of international actors have put together such a play in a few months.
The end was amazingly not what I assumed. Granted, Petrucchio creates his own successful theatre, there's the magic wedding and the love story of Lucentio and Bianca is fulfilled…but what about Katherine? This is what Julian executed best; an empowered Katherine who stands up to conceited producer Shirley and proves to be different from all other Hollywood stars, as well as finally following her heart for the first time and admitting her love for Petrucchio. I was not expecting such an ending where both protagonists leave aside their accustomed attitude and dramatically express their love. The Taming of the Shrew kept me laughing but also made me wonder at times, yet the ending was definitely worth watching and the English Drama School will without doubt continue to improve an already promising acting path under Wickham's guidance.