The Taming of the Shrew is one of the Bard’s masterpieces that I actually get on with, contrary to popular opinion! I saw the Royal Shakespeare Company perform it at the Globe Theatre a few years ago and absolutely loved it, so I was a little apprehensive when I arranged to seeArrows & Traps’ gender-crazed interpretation. However I went along to the New Wimbledon Theatre Studio with an open mind and was rewarded greatly!
Set in Padua, the Taming of the Shrew (with genders neatly swapped ahead) tells the tale of two sons – one the perfect husband and one a nightmare. Their mother Lady Baptista refuses to allow Bianco to marry until the unruly Kajetano is also suitably matched. This leads to a number of scheming admirers matching the rich Petruchia to the tame the ‘shrew’ as to free up the more eligible bachelor for marriage.
The gender reversal in this play is a stroke of genius on director Ross McGregor’s part. It stands so well in an era where women’s rights and power, although lightyears ahead of Elizabethan times, still need work. I loved how the lesson learnt at the end saw the husbands learn to appreciate their wives with the modern-day, drunken ‘Lord’ Christopher Sly heading home with a slightly different epiphany.
Arrows & Traps work excellently as a company and I’d be keen to see their material again as they have such a strong group of performers. Elizabeth Appleby (Petruchia) is a commanding lead and clearly a natural with the Shakesperian style. She had a convincing on-stage connection with Alexander McMorran (Kajetano). Their first scene together was just captivating and I particularly enjoyed the transition from the bitter relationship to one that was truly sweet to watch.
Another standout performer for me was Pippa Caddick (Biondella). What an excellent physical actress – the essence of the role came naturally to her, unforced and not a bit awkward. She was unafraid of it like some actresses I’ve seen in the past.
A special mention must also go to Christopher Neels as Christopher Sly who was such a convincing drunk that I think several audience members were ready to evict him from the building! I must also give a nod to the squealing chefs. I’m ready to adopt my own Shakesperian minion to wait on my table!
The play also featured a few musical interludes which gave the performance a bit of a different feel. I’ve seen these described elsewhere as ‘needless’ but I thought it added depth to a play that can be quite hard to feel involved with on an emotional level.
I can understand how some may not take to this version of the play. Many struggle with the original version and to some newcomers to the script it could be confusing. I however fell in love with this adaptation and having seen the show before it was easy to appreciate the gender swap and how it worked to create a different message for audiences.
Arrows & Traps have presented a witty, energetic, five star interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s greats that conveys exactly how his texts are still relevant to us if read into them a little differently. It’s madly fun, if a little erratic, but it works and I would recommend it to anyone looking for some Shakespeare with an engaging, modern twist.
Taming of the Shrew is at the New Wimbledon Studio until Saturday 20th June with tickets available from ATG.