views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Taming of the Shrew
Etcetera Theatre
26th August 2016

★★★★★

Bryony Twydle

Photography © Shay Rowan

The Taming of the Shrew is a familiar tale to most and one that theatre makers often play with, but you may not have seen it done as a rave. Yes, you read that correctly, a rave. In Get Over It Productions' version, Shakespeare's play is moved to 1989 when the rave culture is, well, raving. Billy boy's style of English combined with frenzied, hypnotic movement makes for a curious blend of the old and new. Whilst I'm not sure that the underground clubbers of the 1980s were as eloquent in their speech as this lot, it works brilliantly.

At only an hour straight through, Katharina (Valencia Spearpoint) is quickly tamed by Petruchio (Sass Clyde), leaving Lucentio (Catherine Higgins), Hortensio (Emma Zadow) and Gremio (Heather Warne) to compete for the affections of her sister, Bianca (Evelyn Craven). Whilst Katharina may be the shrew after whom the play is named, in this adaptation, the characters are focussed on the younger sister. And of course the dancing. There's a lot of it.

When you enter the room, you are met by a group of ravers living it up. Despite looking quite clearly high, their movement is great. Seriously, huge respect to the actresses for maintaining their energy levels and dancing so vigorously throughout the entire play. In what almost feels like a juxtaposition, the cast launch into full Shakespearean mode (while still energetically throwing some shapes between dialogues of course). Director Paula Benson chooses to stick with the original characters, basic storyline and traditional language, however the clothes, lighting, music, dancing and body language evoke the 1980s. The feeling of mild disorientation at the contrast soon ends though. It doesn't feel at all forced or like it's been adapted to make it accessible for young people. It should appeal to them (and at pushing 30 I'm not sure if I still fall in that category), but simply because it's really well done. And of course, relationship and money issues are ultimately timeless, even if the context varies over the generations.

There are no weak links in this talented all-female ensemble of 12. In particular, Lesley Hayes delivers some wonderful comic lines as Grumio and her facial expressions, particularly in the eyes, are marvellous. Clyde makes a fantastic, if slightly terrifying, Petruchio. That slight grimace of a smile is truly unnerving. At this point you might be wondering about the gender mismatch? Well, the company switches the traditional way of doing things (all-male cast) to an all-female one. Yet (similarly to Shakespeare’s time I imagine) there are no issues as a result and the genders are very clear.

One of the things that stood out to me was that wherever you looked, something was going on. At the times when my eye ventured from the primary action to the outer corners of the stage, every single person was busy, whether raving, in silent discussion, or pensively considering the goings on. Now, this should be something you take for granted rather than a compliment, however in so many productions that just doesn't happen as naturally as it does here. Furthermore, the music blends really well with the speech and I never had any issues with volume or awkward transitions. The arrangement of the performers on stage is also well done and their movements are seamless.

Despite this being the company's tenth year at the Camden Fringe, it's the first time we've managed to catch their entry into the festival because their shows always sell out quickly. When there are hundreds of other productions fighting for audiences in August, performing to an absolutely packed to the rafters full house very night is quite an achievement. Having now seen their work at the Etcetera, it's easy for us to understand how they've managed to pull this off again and again. There is zero chance of you bagging a ticket to see Get Over It Productions' take on the Shrew at the point but do learn a lesson from this story. No, nothing about relationships - no one ever agrees on Shakey's intentions in this play anyway - learn that when Get Over It Productions are in town, book in advance. We highly recommend their work!

The Taming of the Shew opened on 25th August and runs until 27th August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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