BWW Reviews: KISS ME, KATE, Old Vic, December 19th 2012
It's rarely you hear laughs quite so uncomfortable as those at the Old Vic this afternoon. Kiss Me, Kate is always a slightly difficult show to watch because of its use of The Taming of the Shrew - still the subject of textual analysis by literary scholars who can't agree on whether it's a very modern and ironic take on sexual politics, or whether it's an apologia for traditional gender roles and domestic violence.
Yet today, in the light of recent events in America, Harrison Howell's admiration of the gangsters' gun-carrying by brushing it off with a glib reference to the second amendment right to bear arms followed by their dialogue, "Guns don't kill people!" / "We do!" were met not with genuine amusement but with an almost knowing dis-ease, taking us out of the theatre and back into the real world just for that moment.
It was an odd moment. Otherwise, the nigh-on three hours of this production fly by, with Hannah Waddingham and Alex Bourne a genuine and compelling delight as the warring lovers Lilli Vanessi and FrEd Graham.
Adam Garcia (Bill Calhoun) and Holly Dale Spencer (Lois Lane) are a strangely lacklustre couple in comparison - both terrific dancers and singers but without the oodles of chemistry you'd expect from this pairing.
It's always lovely to see Clive Rowe and David Burt on stage, and even nicer to see them together after their very short run in The Fantasticks. Both make the most of their comedy roles as the gangsters and revel in the laughs they get.
As you'd expect, there's some energetic choreography courtesy of Stephen Mear, and if you're a fan of tap dancing then there's plenty for you.
This is a good production of a good - if still problematic - show with luminous leads who will deserve all the accolades they get come awards season 2013.