CAST 2015: The Taming of the Shrew

Tue 6th – Sat 10th October 2015


Amanda Brown

at 02:53 on 7th Oct 2015



Brilliantly funny with a sparkling cast, Kennedy Bloomer's production of The Taming of the Shrew will have you in fits! Bloomer's infusion of head-bopping eighties pop, wacky musical instruments and excellent synchronised grooves and moves, made for a truly delightful production. Particularly commendable was the ingenious use of the minimalist storage box set, transforming the stage from monochrome wrestling scene in one act, to Italian country house in the next.

Hats off to Julia Kass (Bianca) and Kate Reid (Katherina) for delivering a playful, biting and genuine performance of sisterly bickering and to Will Peck for his versatility and brilliant acting of one of Shakespeare's drier puns (the knocking at the gate) and his later performance as an overly aggravated widow. Though all actors and actresses gave commendably strong performances, I think it only fair to give a special mention to Robbie Taylor Hunt for his performance as Hortensio. Hunt demonstrated excellent fluidity between several roles, even prompting ovation for his outstanding imitation-Italian tirade against the ever coy Bianca.

Through it did seem that Marco Young's (Lord/Gremio/Vincentio) opening lines felt a little forced, and Toby Marlow's performance as the inebriated Christopher Sly was at times a little too grating, Marlow later 'mellowed' in his role, shattering the fourth wall after the interval, allowing for a more 'banterous' and comfortable affair with the audience in his role as Sly. Furthermore, due credit must be given to the portrayal of Katherina and Petruccio's blossoming romance. Marlow and Reid managed to orchestrate a sizzling chemistry that was only strengthened throughout, making her sudden kowtow to male domination almost believable.

The production was upbeat and engaging, capturing all the chaos of the world of desperate suitors and unwilling maidens, whilst being acutely aware of its awkward power play in then-contemporary, heteronormative marital relationships. Especially appreciated was the sardonic edge with which Reid performed Katherina's final words. A play notorious for its overt misogyny, Kate's final lines were heavily coloured with sarcasm, making the lines 'Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper' ever so slightly more palatable.

With its high energy cast and its bawdy puns, The Taming of the Shrew is thoroughly entertaining. Book your tickets now!


Jack McNichol

at 23:31 on 9th Oct 2015



I’ve never been a huge fan of Shakespeare’s comedies. They seem to date more easily than the tragedies, playing off a sense of humour and shared experience which came naturally to Early Modern audiences, but nowadays can only be fully appreciated through extensive googling and a blatant disregard for progressive liberal values.

The Taming of the Shrew is a prime example. We cringe as the independent, vocal Katherina is gradually worn down to obedience by her unpleasant, arrogant husband and master, Petruccio – “Ha ha ha, he wouldn’t let his wife have any food until she did as she was told. Classic comedy, hilarious,” thinks no self-respecting ADC attendee.

It stands to the immense credit of the Cambridge American Stage Tour, therefore, that this production really had me onside. It was consistently funny and entertaining, and, at times, individual performances were downright hilarious.

The piece as a whole is highly stylised to the point of being cartoonish. Toby Marlow’s drunken Christopher Sly in the frame narrative is reeeally drunken; Julia Kass’s Bianca (Katherina’s younger, more affable sister) is sickly sweet as she fulfils her mother’s wishes; Marco Young’s Gremio, Bianca’s elderly suitor, is so crotchety and dodderingly agèd that he looks like he might just tip over.

Punchy 80s music for scene transitions and set pieces kept the energy high, as did the fast-paced delivery of the dialogue, accompanied frequently by choreographed gesture to help the audience keep up. In a way, this sums up the success of the piece. Shakespeare’s text was not what kept the audience engaged and laughing. It was the physical comedy of the actors, the silly voices, the silently mouthed obscenities, the wonderful expression on the face of Will Peck as Hortensio’s eventual wife, an ugly old widow - it is very possible that Peck has raised the practice of gurning to a sublime and fine art.

However, it was this way in which the text came second that sometimes jarred a little. It meant that the whole play was performed with a sort of high irony – none of the actors could really believe that a character would say such a thing with any sincerity. In a way, the whole play mocked itself, which, though often amusing, meant that it lacked any depth, something that more modern comedy often delivers highly effectively. This comes to a head in the portrayal of Katherina and Petruccio’s reconciliation, as Kate Reid delivers her closing speeches as one great sarcastic joke, a conspirator with Petruccio rather than his obedient wife. Although perhaps necessary for contemporary performance, this stretches the text so far as to make one ask, why bother performing this text at all? Does ironic representation simply reaffirm, redistribute within a culture, the structures of power it seeks to mock?

Such questions aside, this production is a slick vehicle for the comedic talents of its performers, most evident for me in Aoife Kennan and Robbie Taylor Hunt. They had me, along with the rest of the audience, in stitches; Hunt even received a round of applause mid-scene. With great admiration, I think it’s fair to claim of Kennedy Bloomer’s The Taming of the Shrew: Shakespeare doesn’t get much sillier than this.


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