Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Brush up your Shakespeare — you won’t regret it one bit

Brush up your Shakespeare — you won’t regret it one bit

Kiss Me, Kate | Watermill Theatre, Bagnor | Monday, July 29

“THAT place has everything you need for a good night out,” said my companion as we drove away from the Watermill, having just enjoyed a lovely meal followed by a performance of the theatre’s big summer musical, Kiss Me, Kate.

First staged in America in 1948, Kiss Me, Kate is an amusing reworking of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew — a play within a play with the main protagonists, who are actors on tour in Baltimore, mirroring the characteristics of Shakespeare’s leading figures in their own lives.

The book was written back then by Sam and Bella Spewack. Cole Porter, at first reluctant, was finally persuaded to write the music.

And those timeless tunes really are the stars of the show, kicking off with Another Op’nin’, Another Show and romping through numerous instantly recognisable melodies such as Too Darn Hot, Always True to You in My Fashion, Wunderbar and So in Love.

As always at the Watermill, the fabulously talented cast of actor-musicians more than do justice to the music.

Rebecca Trehearn as Lilli (Katherine) and Kimmy Edwards as Lois Lane (Bianca) both have outstanding voices and such talent for acting and dancing that they shone in their respective roles.

David Ricardo-Pearce as Fred (Petruchio) proved the perfect foil to their performances, showing a particular strength for comedy that endeared him to his audience.

The fabulous cast certainly had many demands made upon their talents, not only playing all the music on stage, but having to dance rather more than is usual in the Watermill’s actor-musician productions, and choreography by Strictly’s Oti Mabuse lent a lot to the production.

Director Paul Hart certainly could not be accused of subtlety in his handling of the comedic aspects of the show, with energetic fist-fights, hurling of furniture (well done the props department for that stool), and just enough audience participation to keep those in the front rows on their toes.

And with such a multi-talented cast available to him, there seemed to be nothing that he could not ask of them.

When one member had to come off the piano or drums to go on stage there was always another equally capable musician there to take their place.

The result was a very lively, energetic and melodious production that was thoroughly entertaining throughout.

Just one point to mention. One of the highlight numbers of the evening (with two or three encores) was Brush Up Your Shakespeare, and it has to be said that’s good advice because if you needed to, it would certainly enhance your enjoyment of the show if you reminded yourself of the plot of The Taming of the Shrew before you came.

Kiss Me, Kate is playing until Saturday, September 21. For tickets, call the box office on 01635 46044 or visit www.watermill.org.uk

Mary Scriven

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