The Taming of the Shrew (1993): New Shakespeare Company, Open Air Theatre, London
PrThe Taming of the Shrew (1993)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Jonathan Adams (Baptista Minola); Geordie Johnson (Petruchio); Catherine Terry (Bianca); Cathy Tyson (Katherina).
"Toby Robertson's production is a boisterous opening for this year's open-air season. It is also an almighty muddle. Robertson keeps the Sly episode, but the Lords who entertain the drunken tinker in this most Elizabethan of comedies are clearly from the age of Charles I. On the other hand, the actors who present the play are commedia dell'arte players, whom it would have been unusual to find wandering about the country in the middle of the 17th century. Even more to the point, this may be early Shakespeare, but it is already a comedy of character, whereas these actors play it as clowns, in whiteface, in a visual cacophany of spoof commedia costumes....All the acting is as broad as it is wide, which is very wide indeed. Cathy Tyson's Liverpudlian Katherina does a lot of snarling and face-pulling; for some strange reason her accent undergoes a noticeable gentrification towards the end. Geordie Johnson's North American Petruchio is no more than a prancing macho booby; and I can't think why he calls Kate Cat." ~ John Peter, Sunday Times, 6 June 1993
"Shakespeare's first critic was one Francis Meres, who back in 1598 made mention of several of his comedies, among them Love's Labour's Lost and a mysterious Love's Labour's Won. In the Open Air programme Toby Robertson suggests, probably rightly, that the latter title is a misnomer for The Taming of the Shrew....The setting is a multi-coloured big-top: gaudily decorated poles and bunting, winking bulbs, a plastic-covered ring which emits odd squelching noises when people walk too heavily across it, and a red curtain emblazoned "Love's Labour's Won" in gold squiggles. On what come are, I suppose, meant to be commedia dell'arte performers, but tend, in their exotic headware and garish tunics, to look as if they have been snatched from a painting by Piero Della Francesca and remodelled by Disney....The result is inevitable. The characters not only look like cartoons but behave as if they are trapped in one. They seem forever to be doing silly walks, or leaping into one another's arms, or landing on their bums or being kicked in them....But Shakespeare's Shrew is not a farce. It is a comedy full of openings for actors who have the skill to explore the nuances of the sex-war. Fat chance of any such subtleties in this Loony-Tune Padua. Indeed, the first great batle that Geordie Johnson's Petruchio, with his purple-and-gold uniform and flashing whip, fights with Cathy Tyson's snarling Katherina is explicitly staged as a battle between a tamer and his tiger. He calls her "Cat" throughout, in defiance of a line that rhymes "Kated" with "mated". Anything to identify Shakespeare with Barnun, Bailey, or both....There are signs that Tyson seems to want to chronicle Katherina's evolution from embittered daughter to contented wife; and it may be significant that she alone of the cast loses the white makeup thickly masking her face as the evening progresses. But she must wait for the real Shrew if she is to fulfil her evident talent." ~ Benedict Nightingale, "Circus tricks and cartoon capers", The Times, 4 June 1993
"Ever so slowly, my sneer turned to smiles. This was largely due to fine central performances from the Canadian actor Geordie Johnson as a dashing, likeable Petruchio (there is something oddly endearing about Shakespeare with a North American accent) and Cathy Tyson as an irresistably sexy Kate. In the early scenes the couple prowl around each other with whips, and Miss Tyson's spitfire rages - all animal growls and wild locks flying in the breeze - are an erotic delight. Nor does director Toby Robertson offer any modish feminist reading of the play. Even in their first encounter it is clear that this Kate fancies Petruchio, and as her temper is tamed she begins to glow with love. The final speech of submission is delivered with sincerity and radiant smiles. You'd think even male chauvinists might find this a bit rich these days, but the effect is surprisingly touching for as she loses her rage, Tyson's Kate movingly discovers both dignity and happiness." ~ Charles Spencer, "Bard from the adventure playground", Daily Telegraph, 3 June 1993