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Saturday, September 20, 2008
The Courtyard Theatre: 06 Sept, 2008

Nice vase.

The RSC says (and they should know) of TAMING OF THE SHREW: "Shakespeare explores the sexual politics of marriage." But I say, of this new production: "Women exploit and highlight the weaknesses of man." I'm sure we're all correct in defining the difficulties that exist in the play often voted Best Ever by the readers of Misogynist Monthly. TOTS (as I will now refer to it) is one of my favorite of SHAKESPEARE'S work; probably because it is so open to interpretation and, like HAMLET, still relevant.

He can usually be seen in DOCTORS

Without humping on (in an annoying trouser~scratching fashion) about my 'credentials' when it comes to Billy S - go HERE for my review of Hamlet - I did do a number of papers on this very play along with the ZEFFIRELLI version starring [Harry Hill] RICHARD BURTON [/Harry Hill] with some burd he married a couple of times (see what I did there?). And please, purty please, do not mention 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU or I will eff you up, blood!

Old people can be sexy too!

Like my previous trip to the RSC (the night before) I was smacked in the gob by how visceral the production is; how immediate the performances are; and how sah~weet the seats I scored were! Although I am quite familiar with the play I must have had a senior moment as I forgot about the framing device which exists in TOTS. Here the scenes with Sly are set in 'modern' times and we are treated to quite a scene in a strip~club. Erotic? Almost, but I try not to tighten my trousers in such an august setting. But, by flippity, MICHELLE "Scary Face" GOMEZ can certainly 'move'. And I mean that in a good way!


She commands a very physical performance on stage and her Scottish accent is used to startling effect. Those of us familiar with the harsher tones of my country's women (or 'wummin') will get an idea of what I'm referring to there. It's not all KIRSTY "Corr, Give Me The Head~lines Baby!" YOUNG up here (sadly). Or is it? I dunno. I don't frequent the kind of places where the beautiful people go. Or maybe I do and I just don't realise it. Or, maybe I... oh, hold on. Where was I?

Read the part where it defines, "trouser tighteningly"

Oh yeah. Gomez handles her first foray with the RSC with more brutishness and sultry~ness than Liz Taylor did in the aforementioned 1967 film. There's a real 'journey' going on here and by the end she becomes almost robotic in her delivery after her ordeal with PETRUCHIO. Quite heart~breaking, actually, to see the life sucked out of one so vibrant. Still, that's life! As a side~note, it's almost ironic that an actress like Gomez, known for her comedic roles, ellicits fewer laughs (I'm sure that Billy S fans probably have a better name for it, like 'mirth' or some such other) than many of the cast.

Simon & Garfunkel get shirty over the new backing singer...

KEIR CHARLES, who plays Tranio, does a sterling job - finding laughs out of the simplest of lines but usually with gestures that would not look out of place in a CARRY~ON film. And that is not a criticism. The style of a number of the actors involved here are in that vein and one could almost look on this production as a meta~play as it says much about past productions of Shakespeare in general. The overly dramatic gestures and gregarious deliveries which once were the 'norm' are laughable. And we laugh alongside the cast, as well as 'at'. If you remember the BLACKADDER THE THIRD episode where the old actors perform for the Prince then you're getting the idea.

Its got it all: Beards! Hats!! Women!!!

Anyway, back to Mr Charles, who steals the show in almost every scene he is in. Once Tranio starts to impersonate his master, Lucentio, we are treated to an absurd (in a good way) Russell Brand~esque character as the servant doesn't have the skill to pull off the deception (to the audience anyway - it is successful within the play). Again, we have another trait of Billy S held up to the spotlight - that of the 'character playing another character and nobody notices'. If Tranio's ridiculous performance (and it is his, during this play within in a play) wasn't enough to set the Shakespeare purists on edge we are then presented with what can only be called the director's trump card. Race.

One of these people is a robot.

Those familiar with TOTS will know there is another deception in the play. Lucentio's father is impersonated but here the man used is of Jamaican heritage, leading to a moment where the actors had to wait a considerable amount of time before continuing as the audience dried their collective seats. And, again, like all good Shakespeare, the deception works on those within the play. But the high~larity did not stop there. Tranio then had to pull off playing Lucentio pretending to be the man's son - imitating his broad (in all senses) patois. A stroke of unutterable genius by the production team. Of course, when Lucentio's real father turned up, we witnessed an almost Seventies sitcom~style like romp.

Steven Moffat's vision of DOCTOR WHO 2010 is unveiled...

There were more 'race' issues present (but not addressed) in the form of Bianca, played by the trouser~tighteningly dazzling AMARA KARAN (who I spent the whole play trying to figure where the flip I'd seen her before). And was that LEONARD "Dr Legg" FENTON in the cast too? Yes! All in all, a superb production. Better than HAMLET? Certainly more entertaining and just as thoughtful. And no review of Billy S would be complete without my 'star spotter' guide - in the audience was ASHLEY JENSEN. Later on in the pub, Gomez trundled in with her husband JACK "Where Is he Now?" DAVENPORT. That was a weird moment. When he spoke it was like being in an advert. Anyway, I cannot recommend TOTS highly enough. It's nearly done at Stratford but is transferring to Newcastle (!) next and then London. I urge you to catch it.

She wonders, "Will the people of Newcastle get it?"

'Til the next time,

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posted by Cameron McEwan at 10:30 am -
  • At 11:22 am, Blogger FRANK said…

    That sounds like you had fun. God, I wish I could have seen that. Unfortunately, I have a partner who utterly hates Shakespeare. It was a titanic struggle to get him to go and see the Stratford 'Hamlet', even tho' DT and Patsy Stewart were in it! Even then, he hated it. I give up trying to provide a cultural education to my erstwhile husband. Michele Gomez is fab and I'd certainly go just to see her!

    Thanks for a witty and amusing review, yet again!

  • At 4:35 pm, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…

    Thanks Frank!

    That's a pity about the Shakespeare hating going on. This production of TOTS, I feel, would appeal to all with a sense of humour.

    Still he hated Hamlet? That is rough.

    I've known lesser disagreements to split couples!

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