The Taming of the Shrew

JOHN LAWSON Norwich Theatre Royal


Can Ross Kemp break free from the typecast “heavy” burden with which television seems determined to saddle him?

Well, if he decides to spend more time in the theatre, the answer is assuredly “yes”.

I suppose that Shakespeare's very politically-incorrect Petruchio is a type of heavy - ruthlessly breaking down his headstrong wife's will until she becomes as meek and mild as he wants her.

But Kemp's portrayal offers such a light touch and even moments of vulnerability as the macho side of him tries to save face among his peers while his softer side begins to warm to his new bride's charms.

Nicola McAuliffe is a wonderful foil as Kate, the two of them sparking so well together that the over-physical, almost slapstick, approach of some productions just is not required to bring out the best of the comedy and the jousting of the language.

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And the depth of emotion brought to her final long and difficult speech shows her at her very best.

Shrew, one of the Bard's most accessible plays, has probably the greatest amount of broad comedy too, and the supporting cast is packed with some great comic talent.

I particularly enjoyed Michael Matus as the role-swapping Tranio, Nicholas Boulton as failed suitor Hortensio and Wayne Cater as manic manservant Grumio.

Jon Bausor's set, updating 15th century Padua to the 1960s, is deceptively simple yet had many neat touches to effect the changes in scene.

Mark Rosenblatt's direction ensures that, as one eminent Shakespearean scholar pointed out, Shrew remains not locked in the past but as a story of the more subtle sexism of today's world.

t The Taming of the Shrew runs until Saturday October 25. Box office: 01603 630000.

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