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Twelfth Night & The Taming of the Shrew

By William Shakespeare

Propeller

The Lowry, 9 & 10 April 2012

Joseph Chance (Viola) and Ben Allen (Olivia) in Propeller's Twelfth Nigh....jpg

Joseph Chance (Viola) and Ben Allen (Olivia) in Propeller’s Twelfth Night.

Geometric figures that are mirror images of each other but not contiguous; that is how I’d describe the two Shakespeare plays that Propeller have decided to produce this year.

In appearance, similar (both bawdy comedies, and so  about wooing & such like); in reality, unlike.

You would be well advised to batten down the hatches for Twelfth Night, for it is a rollicking ride.  There is a fellow (Joseph Chance, a very fine actor) playing a gal (Viola) who is pretending to be a guy (Cesario), and that’s nowhere near the half of it.  The production brings out all the delirious comedy and wanton vitality and queer poetry (both lyric and dramatic) laying curled in Shakespeare’s text.  Amidst the romping, there are some poignant moments, some occasions where the language takes wonderful flight (literally, or should that be literarily) yet also one scene (the torture of Malvolio, a terrific performance by Chris Myles) which seems wholly out of place.

As for The Taming of the Shrew, beyond its boisterous comedy, it is a brutal affair.  A man brings a woman to heel.  She resists mightily but in time comes to know her place, and love her husband as her rightful Lord.  This is presented as a dream, so there’s a get out and a distance, and it can be dismissed as simply a male wish-fulfilment fantasy.  But for Shakespeare and his contemporaries it was likely the order of the day.  There was plenty of laughter to be had here but there’s no denying that it becomes a little disconcerting at the end.

Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew , both terrific affairs, are currently touring throughout the UK.  Tour dates can be found here.

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