As the sun beat upon Cardiff, a cool breeze following; it really didn’t prove too hard to imagine that we were in the lazy Italy of Shakespeare’s time.
What was amazing about this Italy we were transported to, however, was that despite its age, the actors connected it to the audience; laughter heard flowing through Shakespearean double entendres and the rouge’s Elizabethan renditions of pop songs, a la karaoke, alike.
All the actors were brilliantly cast; James Pritchard as Petruchio had a rouge’s charm, even through his viler moments, and Kate was dramatically acted by Sarah Bawler in moments that flashed with anger Bawler excelled in giving her character comedic sympathy.
Also of note were the rouges; Serena Lewis and Bridie Smith, Alys Pearce as Bianca, making her interesting rather than the easy option of a piece of cardboard, and Petruchio’s much abused servant, Grumio, bringing some great comedic moments as played by Chris Williams.
Thematically, this is one of Shakespeare’s with uneven footing, modern values leaving rather disgusted residual energy, despite the gusto of all the actors in the production; but criticising the man himself would be a little beside the point when so many other have both critiqued and praised it wonderfully, with the best links here and here:
With an increasingly popular view that Shakespeare was trying to push the boundaries of his time, by pushing comedy to its limits and seeing if his audience would laugh; the themes of the play and their dual interpretations, in relation to our and its own time are interesting food for thought.
It is however, somewhat a moot point, as although each member of the cast was excellent, especially in making Shakespeare’s dialogue more understandable; it fails to take any real subversions or bold choices; the stag do at the start and Italian karaoke fun, but the creativity seems spent on the enthralling comedy, rather than trying to find very much meaning.
As it is, however, it’s a play at times bombastic and always well-acted, that benefits enormously from its outdoors setting, and made a real connection with its modern audience.