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The Taming of the Shrew, Hampstead Theatre

William Shakespeare, adapted by Edward Hall and Roger Warren
Directed by Edward Hall  

Pros: Everything – it is a feast for the eyes, the ears and the heart.

Cons: Impossible to find anything wrong with it.

Our Verdict:
I have no doubt Shakespeare would feel proud to see the way his plays have been brought to life by Edward Hall and Propeller.

Courtesy of Hampstead Theatre

The Taming of the Shrew is a play within a play. The first play is The Waking Man’s Dream in which a miserable drunk named Sly is made to believe by the local lord that he is in fact high born. During this first play, a group of actors come to perform for Sly bringing us to the second play as the group perform The Taming of the Shrew.

The Taming of the Shrew depicts Katherine, a vicious, uncontrollable young woman who gets married to the harsh and dominant Petruchio.  This is to allow her younger sister Bianca’s betrothal, as since Katherine is the eldest, her father requires that she is married first. Bianca’s suitors come in many shapes and sizes, literally.  One an extremely wealthy student named Lucentio, as well as the old and shriveling Gremio and the artistic Hortensio.  Both Lucentio and Hortensio disguise themselves as Bianca’s tutor and music teacher respectively, in order to get close to her.

The play is brought to life by Director Edward Hall and Propeller. Propeller is a troupe of all-male actors who are simply enthralling to watch.  Shakespeare’s masterpiece has been given a beating pulse by this talented group of actors.  The curtain between Shakespeare’s time and ours is opened and the experience becomes real not only through the masterful performances, but through the unusual experience of an all male cast.

The second play’s two acts highly contrast one another.  In the first, we come across Katherine.  Dan Wheeler is bravely dressed in a goth-lolita red and black mini dress with harsh gothic makeup and heavy black boots, completing a great choice of wardrobe to represent Katherine’s unruly character.  Wheeler delivers a superb temper as the violent and brutal Shrew.  Vince Leigh performs as both Sly and Petruchio and is dressed in brilliant poppy red mirroring his passionate and savage characters.  His acting reveals a stubborn and egotistical man, bent on marrying anyone wealthy enough for him.  Arthur Wilson as the sneaky and girly Bianca, is dressed all in pink and ruffles.  Finn Hanlon is cast as the very proper tutor Lucentio, with John Dougall and Gary Shelford performing as Gremio and Hortensio to complete the circle.

The best way to describe the colours, music, setting and lighting of this first part is to imagine the styles of David Bowie, The Cure and Queen all brought together.  It is candy to the eyes, ears and heart.  The second act however, weights heavier on the audience.  You shift and twist in your seat watching Petruchio brutally deal with Katherine’s character, completely shaping and breaking her into a submissive wife.  Leigh is faultless in delivering cruelty and Wheeler’s portrayal of Katherine successfully changes the animosity you feel towards her in the first act, into pity and sympathy in the second.  Meanwhile, the fun continues for Bianca as her three suitors persist in courting her.  Each try to find a way to convince the girl’s father, played by Chris Miles, to give them her hand in marriage.

This second act is a dazzling contrast to the first as you watch the painful changes occurring between Katherine and Petruchio, whilst the other characters continue to go about their scheming to get what they want.

Personally, I wish I could go see every single performance left.  I don’t think I will ever get enough of Propeller.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Taming of the Shrew runs at Hampstead Theatre until Saturday 20th July 2013.
Box office: 020 7722 9301 or book online at http://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/

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