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Print Version

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Rita Stone
The Young Auckland Shakespeare Company

at TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland
From 5 Dec 2012 to 8 Dec 2012

Reviewed by Johnny Givins, 6 Dec 2012

“We shouldn't teach Shakespeare, we should perform Shakespeare” – Sir Ben Kingsley.  

The proof of this is on stage at TAPAC and it is wonderful to watch.  Rita Stone formed the Young Auckland Shakespeare Company in July 2012 for 14-21 year old actors.  The Taming of the Shrew is the first performance by this enthusiastic young company. 

The show is full of energy, adventure and daring.  It takes the text of the original and squeezes it into a theatrical event that would please The Bard.  Perhaps some poetry is missing, but the acting by this ensemble cast is direct, physical, and fun.  The actors breathe life into every syllable and make sure that the sense of the action is clear and the intention unambiguous. 

Rita Stone has directed a comedic vision of The Shrew set in the 1980s.  It starts in a girls' boarding school and the 80s music is loud.  The Principal is the mother of two daughters one Katherine and the other Bianca. The angry Kate must be married before the ‘lovely' Bianca can wed.

All the Shakespearian characters are there, played by young men and young women with gusto.  There is slapstick, over acting, face pulling, wild reactions, lots of arms thrown about and it's funny. 

Petruchio (Caleb Wells) is a punk with the spiky green hair, chains and ripped jeans.  He is equally matched by Katharina (Sally Bollinger) with vitriol, abuse, angry wild hair and studs.  These are both impressive performances and talents to watch in the future. 

The groundlings comedy is well served by Grumio (Hanna Schunk-Hocking), Tranio ( Murdoch Keane) and Biondello (Erin O'Flaherty) as they throw themselves into the action and actually make The Bard's comedy writing work.  There is also great absurd character work from the suitors-Lucentio (George Maunsell), Hortensio (Zachery Buckland) and Gremio (Jack Duncan Spring). 

The set is simple, against blacks, there are six blackboard flats on wheels.  The cast draw images and words in chalk on the boards as the scene requires.  It is just enough to give us the sense of place for the action: there is a fire place and someone needs to light the fire so the actor draws in the flames!

It's a daring production which pulls itself out of the ‘school production' mode by the commitment and energy of the ensemble, although it does plays with many of the elements you may recognise from school shows. 

As an initial production the Young Auckland Shakespeare Company, this Taming of the Shrew is to be lauded as a good start and a harbinger for future Shakespeare performances.
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