BWW Review: THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
The Taming of the Shrew is arguably one of Shakespeare's most controversial comedies. In Maria Gaitanidi's production, designer Liam Bunster has helped to transform the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse with raised platforms and ladders, with the cast using them constantly throughout. Although you occasionally lose sight of the performers as they climb onto the various platforms, it makes the production different from anything else I've seen in the space.
The cast in Gaitanidi's production initially rehearsed without knowing which part they would play, and although this an interesting concept, it doesn't really work well in practice. Most of the actors are cautious with their lines and don't seem fully comfortable in their roles yet.
In particular, Melissa Riggall's Katherina is far from the stubborn, wild, waspish woman that is described in the text; instead, she's meek and softly spoken. As such, Kate's drastic change from untameable to sedate following her marriage to Petruchio (Paul Ready) is lost. Evelyn Miller as Baptista's youngest daughter Bianca has a firmer mindset than her sister.
Mattia Mariotti bounces between characters effortlessly, raising the most laughs from the audience, while James Northcote is both amusing and charming as Lucentio. But it is unfortunate that the Globe's Artistic Director Michelle Terry is cast in the small role of Biondello, one of Lucentio's servants. As a great Shakespearean actor, she would have been terrific in a more prominent role.
The play does plod along quite slowly at times, and although the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is beautifully atmospheric, sitting for so long on its backless wooden benches can make for an uncomfortable three hours and 15 minutes. It can also be a bit confusing if you're not already familiar with the text, as the actors jump between characters.
While experimental productions often pay off, this one feels underdeveloped and unfortunately falls flat.
The Taming of the Shrew at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until 8 April.
Photo Credit: Johan Persson