The Taming of the Shrew (1995): Haymarket Theatre, Leicester
PrThe Taming of the Shrew (1995)
PRINCIPAL CAST: James MacPherson (Petruchio); Alfred Marks (Baptista); Jules Melvin (Bianca); Josette Simon (Katherina).
This production ran from 21 April - 13 May 1995.
"'I had the impression that I had a kind of fire in front of me, a sizzle,' says Romanian director Mihai Maniutiu of his first meeting with actress Josette Simon. 'I knew immediately and instinctively it was her,' he said recalling the moment he chose her to play Katherina in his production of The Taming of the Shrew..."
~ "Naming of the shrew", Daily Mail, 24 March 1995
"Mihai Maniutiu...places Josette Simon's imperious, amazingly athletic and sensual Kate in a playground setting of red ramps on a sandpit...And he puts a rifle in her hand. This Kate and her genuinely funny Scottish Petruchio...develop their passion through the tactics of seduction which are seen as brutal but never brutalising. As at Stratford [RSC, directed by Gale Edwards], Petruchio's country seat is a form of torture chamber; but the Leicester version interestingly incorporates elements of sexual sado-masochism. The couple are seen thrashing around in bed as Petruchio 'thus politicly begins my reign' and their public kiss in the street is a resume of their relationship, not, as at Stratford, a point of departure. The duty speech marks a graceful fulfilment to Kate's sexual awareness programme. As Petruchio smugly smokes a clay pipe and folds his arms, she once more produces a gun which she aims into the air above. The 'we'll to bed' exit speech is cut, as it is at Stratford, but with more reason; you feel you have experienced a complete relationship and that there is no future in it."
~ Michael Coveney, Observer, 30 April 1995
"The Odeon Theatre in Bucharest is now closed by a political backlash against the wave of liberalism that followed the fall of Ceausescu in 1989 and director Mihai Maniutiu has left to set up his own independent company. His visit to Leicester, guest directing English actors, is part of a cultural exchange with Romania....His approach is both respectful and robustly inventive. The show is set on circus-style ramps in a circular sand-pit and dressed in robes with a rich renaissance feel. He's dropped the framework of Christopher Sly's dream (which helps feminist readings off the hook) and much of the business with Petruchio's servants - focussing on Kate's submission as a sexual conquest that leaves her cockahoop. Josette Simon's Kate is a magnificent beast, snarling and hissing at her sister's suitors with a predator's disdain, performing a funky chicken striptease with sensual abandon. James MacPherson is a find as Petruchio, stomping down the aisles with macho bravado but relying on a dimpled charm. When she wins him his last wager over the most obedient wife you know it's all a game, yet she plays the final speech, exhorting women to their duty, without a wince of irony. Then, as he sucks smugly on a clay pipe, she fires a shotgun which brings cuckold's horns down on his head. Imaginative direction or crafty cop-out?...Flawed but fascinating."
~ Robin Thornber, "If the Shrew fits", Guardian, 3 May 1995
"This comedy here sounds like a dispatch from a frontline Bosnian disco. Kate (Josette Simon) comes on stage clutching a rifle and starts shooting. When she's out of ammo you get deafening music by Sparks and ethnic funk from Bucharest instead. Terrified of this Paduan version of Annie Oakley, a terrified Hortensio drops his trousers at her command. But the whiff of cordite isn't enough to stop Petruchio (dressed as a tinker to look like Sly, who has been dropped altogether) setting his sights on her dowry. The point is to resurrect the play as a breezy farce. The set consists of red playground ramps over a sandpit on which the actors run around like over-active children. The evening is stuffed with comic business. Petruchio plunges Kate into a butt of malmsey....At best the evening generates fresh laughs, at worst it all looks like a Punch and Judy show from eastern Europe. It would wear you down were it not for Josette Simon's wonderful snarling tigress of a Kate."
~ "Sex, war, fun and games", Daily Telegraph, 3 May 1995