Pros: An intelligent and thoughtful look at Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew from the inside.
Cons: A bit one dimensional at times.
We’ve all wondered what happens to characters when we close the covers of a book or the curtain comes down and the actors take their bows. What lives do they lead after their written stories end?
Shrew, written and performed by Ami Jay, gives us a privileged view into the life after the character Katherine as we know her. This is a character that has been troubling critics for years. What is Shakespeare saying when he writes a great female character and then ‘tames’ her? Why is her abuse treated with such comedy? Is he being ironic? Was Shakespeare a feminist?
Jay takes on some of these questions in her portrayal of Katherine the Shrew as she ponders where it all went wrong and shares with us what life is like for the character after Act V. Jay’s script is clever and skilfully written. Interweaving excerpts of Shakespeare’s verse with vignettes of Katherine expounding on her experiences and philosophizing on her life in the vernacular, each Shakespeare verse that follows an astute comment on the questions Katherine, and Jay, attempt to answer.
The sole performer on stage, Ami Jay comes into her own as the show progresses, filling the small studio space confidently with Katherine’s presence. Cameos by other characters of Shakespeare’s play such as Katherine’s father or her sister’s suitors are made through photographs and mild impersonations at points in the original text that feed or feel particularly pertinent to, the crux of Jay’s argument in solving The Taming of the Shrew. Jay also uses her audience well in this instance, recruiting a male audience member to play Katherine to her Petruchio – a nice role reversal that helps her in her journey to pinpoint exactly where and how she went from one extreme to the next, from ‘Katherine the Shrew’ to ‘Katherine the married and ‘tamed’’.
The small battered trunk that holds the keys to and causes of Katherine’s demise as she sees it, contains mostly copies and copies of thumbed through, high-lighted and post-it noted versions of Shakespeare’s text. The prop becomes a tantalizing chest of surprises with each object and scene it reveals. However some props and costume pieces that surface from this seemingly bottomless abyss make more sense than others.
While Jay argues her case for Katherine with great validity, the argument does become cyclical and slightly overwrought towards the end, flirting dangerously close to losing the attention of her audience. Ironically, however, this does line up Katherine’s final statement in verse for a stunningly strong and reverberating finale.
A contemplative piece and a worthwhile deconstruction of Shakespeare’s play; Shrew is definitely worth a peek by the Shakespeare curious and the Shakespeare buff alike.
Author: Ami Jay
Director: Abigail Pickard Price
Producer: Alexandra Da Silva
Booking Until: 28 June 2015
Box Office: 020 7419 4841
Booking Link: https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/showTickets.php?show=683