The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

The Theatre Royal Bath

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Director: Lucy Bailey

The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s plays that always creates lots of debate every  time that it is staged. This production will be no different. Director Lucy Bailey has transported the play back to 1940s Italy giving the whole production a different edge and feel which does not completely work for me, the only real saving grace being the superb musicians which play inter-linking music and join the chorus on numerous occasions. The play itself gains nothing from its new setting.

This is Shakespeare for a younger generation and Lucy Bailey should be applauded for her attempts to make Shakespeare accessible to a new bawdy generation of theatre-goers. There are moments of pure physical comedic excellence especially amongst the characters of the servants who leap, prance and fall in perfect slapstick fashion leaving the audience laughing appreciatively.

The opening induction sequence was visually interesting although the diction and projection of some of the actors unfortunately let it down. The beauty of Shakespeare’s work lies within his visual images in the text and spoken word and if these cannot be clearly heard or understood then for audiences unfamiliar with the text a battle to understand what is happening ensues.  It also felt at times that the actors were trying to rush through the text to get as much of it out in as little time as possible. The induction sequence did, however, set up beautifully the play within the play and helped to cast aside the fourth wall and draw the audience in to the “show within the show”. I especially liked the few moments where the Lord, played by Adrian Lukis, appeared in the audience boxes either side of the stage as a constant reminder that we are all watching the same journey unfold in front of us.

The use of a giant bed as a set was ingenious and helped to create some stunning visual images and sequences and allowed for a real vision of the different settings which worked beautifully, coupled with a delicate lighting design and subtle sound design which really helped to add to the overall production.

Overall, if you want to see a fresh, new and funny adaptation of what can be seen as one of Shakespeare’s more boring plays then this could be the one for you.

Taming of the Shrew run until Saturday. For tickets and more info please visit the Theatre Royal Bath’s website.

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