The Taming of the Shrew (2002): Salisbury Playhouse
PrThe Taming of the Shrew (2002)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Katia Caballero (Katherina); Andy Hockley (Baptista); Danielle King (Bianca): Jay Villiers (Petruchio).
This production ran from 5 - 28 September 2002.
"Douglas Rintoul's account of The Taming of the Shrew strikes me as a frustratingly irresolute, if competently acted affair, increasing the play's contentiousness by giving it an Islamic gloss, yet leaving the directorial conceit so undeveloped as to make it seem glibly opportunistic...Padua [is] depicted in Gemma Fripp's stylish design by an Arabic-looking colonnade behind which lurk several palm trees. The textual references to Italy remain, but the actors' caps, robes and tunics as well as, at one point, the call to prayer itself represent an overt nod towards Mecca. Besides our heightened current interest in Islam, we now live in a society in which Shakespeare's works are increasingly likely to be approached from radically different cultural perspectives. But Rintoul's vantage point is little more valuable than that of a coach-trip tourist passing through some exotic landscape....Elsewhere the broad, knockabout playing style is as you'd find it in many a conventional production, underlining the sense that this young turk's stab at topicality owes more to the spirit of Carry On than it does to the Koran." ~ Dominic Cavendish, "An Islamic gloss more Carry On than Koran", Daily Telegraph, 12 September 2002 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/drama/3582602/An-Islamic-glos...)
"Two Shakespeare productions in the last fortnight have used Islamic settings. At Chichester, Romeo and Juliet was moved to Constantinople. At Salisbury, The Taming of the Shrew remains in Padua and Verona, but the architecture and costumes are Islamic, presumably to suggest that the state-of-play between husbands and wives described in the play finds its closest parallel in modern-day Islam. Gemma Fripp's cool, elegant design presents a colonnade with palm trees in the distance....The Muslim setting turns out to be merely picturesque. As with Chichester, it adds nothing to the play itself." ~ Robert Butler, Mail on Sunday, 8 September 2002, in Theatre Record XXII, Issue 17-18.
"Salisbury Playhouse begins its new season with a Shrew set in a contemporary North Italy that has somehow managed to become Muslim. This quirky notion doesn't play such havoc with the words as Chichester's placing of Romeo and Juliet in the Ottoman Empire but the decision opens its own trapdoors....But so to al-Shrew. How pretty this Padua looks, with its receding line of horseshoe arches and hanging lamps (design by Gemma Fripp), yet Rintoul has not considered how offensive a Muslim setting of this play must be. It's impossible to make wife-mauling work in a modern Western community. 'I know,' he [Rintoul] may have argued, 'we'll make it modern Islam. Anything happens out there.' Well, one of the many things that don't happen is that fathers letting daughters marry zanies arriving at the altar in a wedding dress. Rintoul's culture-blindness is absurd. After this, what? Hamlet in a Trappist monastery?" ~ Jeremy Kingston, The Times, 11 September 2002.
"...it still requires a shrewd director to make this comedy, which can come across like curdled milk, seem palatable. Douglas Rintoul...almost pulls it off here with a production that is as eye-catching as it is intelligent. Gemma Fripp's design of Arabic-influenced arches and twisted palms juts out crossways over the stage. Rintoul, too, comes at the play in a Muslim (but not fundamentalist) society is not only topical but also dramatically cute and intellectually convincing. Here, when Katia Caballero's spirited - if not 100% proof - Katherina falls down in front of Jay Villiers's sunny, bear-like Petruchio, it is as an obedient wife within the laws of Islam. The way he kisses her hand and raises her up indicates that he too is bound by laws that mean he owes a duty to his wife to honour and protect her." ~ Lyn Gardner, Guardian, 12 September 2002.
"The light, off-white Mughal-Ikea colonnade signals that you are in a Muslim city. Baptista heads a respectable and conventional family. This makes it odd that Bianca is left alone with two male strangers, and that Katherina wears a wedding dress with bare shoulders, and occasionally reveals plenty of leg. The idea that a Muslim girl would push and punch her father's visitors is laughable. One of the servants in Petruchio's house - for some reason played by a woman - is drunk. This is clearly a case of a director knowing little of Muslim life, relying on his audience knowing even less, and not being bothered if they know more. Then why do it? The Muslim setting tells you nothing about the play. You might as well set it among the Amish of Pennsylvania. The acting ranges from penny-plain to tuppence coloured." ~ John Peter, Sunday Times, 15 September 2002.