The Taming of the Shrew | Sport For Jove

The Taming of the Shrew | Sport For JoveLeft – Danielle King. Photo – Marnya Rothe

Director Damien Ryan has incorporated his own sly Induction in Sport for Jove’s production of The Taming of the Shrew. Instead of a drunken dream, he opens the play inside a dream factory, a motion picture studio, where Baptista Molina churns out cheesy popular entertainments, some starring his younger daughter, Bianca.

This is a clever conceit and gets the show off to a crisply choreographed caper resembling the controlled chaos of a Mack Sennett movie, as eloquent in its “silence” as Shakespeare’s text, once it kicks in. The starlet, Bianca, has two studio stars as her suitors, but her Carlo Ponti type daddy will only consent for his youngest to marry only after his first born Katherina has been wed.

Fat chance of that, as Katherina is an aviatrix and avowed bachelor girl who delights in buzzing her father’s studio in her aeroplane. The stakes are raised to get the spinster hitched, however, when another suitor of Bianca enters the scene. Simultaneously, a seaman, Petruchio, seeking to shore up his financial stakes now that his father has shuffled off his mortal coil, sets his sights on the Shrew and her formidable dowry.

In this big, bold, inventive and innovative production of The Taming of the Shrew, license has been taken with Will’s quill, with Shakespeare’s Shrew shaken into a sea shanty, a silent film melodrama, and a silly arse farce, but the dizzying discipline on show from the entire ensemble keeps the engine of the narrative and plot at full steam.

Cross dressing siblings, silver screen divas and stooge audience members are all part of this carousing casserole and the taming of this stew is a marvel of direction, staging, design and stage management. Indeed, kudos to SM Bronte Axam and her assistants, Katherine and Lauren Holmes for seemingly effortless traffic control.

Anna Gardiner's set is a triumph of manual mechanical mobility, allowing a fluidity in set change while keeping with the aesthetics of a movie set. Add Sian James-Holland's evocative lighting and the use of projected, early cinema style film to accentuate the aesthetic and the presentation is a rich visual tapestry for the performers to play off.

Danielle King as Katherina is brilliantly barbed and bolshy, perfectly poised and pitched against James Lugton as the nautical and not often nice Petruchio, whose methods in taming are tantamount to torture. Their horror honeymoon aboard his ship made me think of Lars Von Trier's Breaking the Waves. Yet, despite this, there is a glimmer, a hint, a hope, that perhaps there is something more akin to the Beatrice/Benedict tryst in this relationship and not just some perverse product of a Stockholm Syndrome – or perhaps more geographically pertinent, a Padua Programme or Verona Method – whatever. Kismet, Kate?

Her “conversion” from spitfire spinster to dutiful wife is certainly unpalatable in today's more enlightened times, just as Shylock's is in the taming of the Jew, but good theatre has never been, and should never be the preserve of the politically correct. That would be the shaming of the true.

George Kemp (Biondello) and Michael Cullen (Grumio) display crack clowning skills, as do Amy Usherwood and George Banders as the haberdasher and the tailor, Christopher Stalley and Eloise Winestock as the deceiving cross dressing siblings, Lucentio and Tania, and the quadruple character creator, Mr. Christopher Tomkinson.

Terry Karabelas does a fine Fairbanksian swashbuckle as Hortensio, and Barry French is the very model of the faded matinee idol fuddy duddy infatuated with Bianca.

Lizzie Schebesta shines as Bianca, fine lining the similar feistyness she shares with King's Katherina, as well as subtly signalling the Janus aspect.

Robert Alexander is solid as Baptista, conveying commercial rather than parental concern regarding either of his daughters, somewhat bewildered that real life isn’t as clear cut as the “reel” life he peddles.

And take a bow, Miss Angela Bauer, as the glamourous and gorgeous Vincentia, superstar diva of the silver screen.

A four hundred year old satirical farce, there's much ado in this The Taming of the Shrew. Well worth making the shrewd move in claiming a pew.

Sport for Jove Theatre presents
The Taming of the Shrew

Director Damien Ryan

Venue: York Theatre, Seymour Centre | Cnr City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale NSW
Dates: 19 – 28 May, 2016
Tickets: $42 – $35

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