Shrew

Thu 31st July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Millie Morris

at 00:06 on 9th Aug 2014

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As a woman dully bounces a ball up and down, adorned in dressing gown and red lipstick, I'm not sure what to expect of something which I presume will be loosely inspired by our favourite is-it-feminist-or-not Shakespeare play. Once the action has commenced, there is one thought in my head which mutates as the production progresses: it starts as 'I want to know where this is going', and concludes as 'I want this to stop.' With some interesting interpretations of the shrew's life after marriage, we are led on a cacophonous journey of shrieking, reminiscing, and more shrieking. Like Katharina's bouncing balls which threaten to impale her audience at any moment, this production is hit-and-miss -- and you'll be lucky to leave with your eardrums still intact.

In contrast to the Elizabethan playwright's heroine (or anti-heroine), Katharina here is brought to life by Ami Jones as a quivering, seemingly anxious to the point of neurotic woman who tears up paper, throws things and tells her lighting technicians to turn it up a little. She starts the show with photographic slides of family members, illustrating the character's history and discussing the father she dismisses and the sister she loathes. The clearly genuine nature of the photographs confuses me: is it Katharina talking, or Jones? This befuddlement sets the tone for the rest of the show: one which is potentially poignant, but ultimately does not give me any answers.

I whole-heartedly support the notion of shouting at anyone who a) thinks it's alright to attempt, condone or even talk about 'taming' a woman and b) refers to her as a 'shrew', but I don't know whether we're stuck in Shakespeare's sexist past or are supposed to take her marriage as a modern one. The flow of slander against her husband and men in general at first appears justified, and then becomes disheartening -- is this equalism or misandry? I understand that the shrew might be a modern woman in a modern world, but are all modern men as she says they are? Or have I just missed the point because I am wincing so hard from the headache that is blossoming in my temples and spreading like wildfire from the onslaught of enraged dialogue that ensues from the stage?

Overall, I cannot decipher the tone of the play. Jones is clearly a capable actor, but the intimate space is just a little too small for this exaggerated behaviour. The concept is interesting, but eventually falls short: this 'shrew' has veered too far away from shrewdness for me to gain anything remotely valuable from her one-woman play.

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Fay Watson

at 09:05 on 9th Aug 2014

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From "Kiss Me Kate" to "10 Things I Hate About You", Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" is constant subject for reinvention. "Shrew" carries on this didactic legacy but with a dark twist - there is no happy ending for the often idealized love story between Katherine and Petruchio. The one-woman show starts with Kate/ Katherine/ Katharina/ The Shrew (Ami Jones) repeatedly bouncing a ball up and down; this idea of monotony is picked up as the monologue progresses as a symbol for her view on married life.

Ami Jones as both the writer and the performer of the show is impressive. Firstly, in writing she has a achieved an intellectual feat. Her weaving of Shakespearean lines and modern interpretations falls seamlessly and with great emotion. It is clever yet approachable in its style with enough Shakespeare references to excite an English student but not alienate someone who hasn't read the play. She gives a powerful, active performance that is one of the strongest I have seen at the Fringe so far. Admittedly, she sometimes verges on hysterical shouting and her mannerisms after 30 minutes do begin to grate. Yet, it is not supposed to be a comfortable show but a bitter glimpse into what happens when the ending goes wrong.

As Pertruchio says in the original, and Kate repeats in "Shrew" "where two raging fires meet together,/ They do consume the thing that feeds their fury." And Kate is a woman consumed by bitterness, anger and nostalgia. She ends up, Miss Havisham style, in a wedding dress, flinging around her multiple bookmarked, note-filled copies of "The Taming of the Shrew". Throughout the play she also shows old photos of the family she supposedly hates on her make-shift projector and regresses into memory.

This is a character trapped in her story, and as much as Jones allows her voice and comment for her situation through her monologue, she remains ultimately stuck. Heartbreaking and accurate, she doesn't allow us a solution. Technically, it could have been shorter, as towards the end some aspects began to feel repetitive. But, overall, Jones and her director, Abigail Pickard Price, have taken a controversial play and transformed it into another that, with no fourth wall, impeaches on the audience and challenges them.

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