Shrew’s Who? is an attempt at role reversal of Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew. As a rehearsed reading and work-in-progress, expectations are that much can be forgiven. Not that much needed to be forgiven with a strong ensemble cast.
Suzy Catliff’s production was entertaining and fascinating. Hearing the text from a different gender perspective somehow works without losing the meaning. There were however times when it was confusing as to whom all the characters were. Never an easy task to act with a book in hand, the actors made their way valiantly through the stumbling blocks of exchanging his for hers and she for he. There was a good overall sense of the play carried through and some notable performances particularly from Katy Secombe as Petruchio making much of the role without making it arrogant or gruff but lightly played with good humour. She had a good vivacity, which helped tell the story on it’s reversed trajectory. Oliver Tilney gave a demure Bianca and clearly has great comedic skills. Equally at home with drama, he has a good voice and looks reminiscent of Aiden Gillen. Sam Miller made for a somewhat sulky teenager of a Kate, which was interesting to watch instead of the usual shrew we are given. He has a great natural quality about him and a laissez faire attitude, which served well in this role. Diane Axford made a memorable Grumio with great vocal and comic ability telling the tale with ease. Rhianne Starbuck as Biondello gives some good characterisation and comic timing.
It certainly strikes a note as to the lack of female parts when this play is reversed and what is a joy to watch is the women have the opportunity to play more principal roles.
As a work in progress, it feels as though it is almost where it needs to be and it may serve the piece to go the whole way and change the names to suit the gender to avoid confusion. Given that Shakespeare writes stock characters it may also be an idea to have the female actors play stock characters of women rather than a version where they play along to what a male character might do.
Overall a decent presentation with some great moments that brings the play newly to life but with some work still to do. Worth watching and one to keep an eye on for the future.