Birmingham Royal Ballet Brings John Cranko’s Taming of the Shrew to Bristol
The Bristol Hippodrome
Wednesday 29th June – Saturday 2nd July 2016
On Wednesday I took my parents into Bristol to see Birmingham Royal Ballet’s opening night of Taming of the Shrew. It was a truly horrible, wet British summer’s evening, but I was happy to venture out as the last time I’d seen this ballet was as a child with my Mum taking me! The performance back then had a big impact on us and we both clearly remember how impressed we were with the stiff, rebellious dancing of Katherina, the shrew, which we considered to be quite modern at the time. Would this version live up to our memories?
But wait, I think this could be the moment to share my first ever theatre video review which I put together that evening. It was made using snapchat so please excuse the unavoidable horrible vertical video layout!
Taming of the Shrew Ballet
Birmingham Royal Ballet, one of the world’s leading classical ballet companies, is returning to The Bristol Hippodrome after an absence of nearly 20 years with six performances of John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew, a choreographic depiction of Shakespeare’s perpetually battling lovers, Petruchio and Katherina, and of Petruchio’s determination to bend the feisty, independent-spirited and tempestuous Katherina to his will. Originally created for Stuttgart Ballet in 1969, The Taming of the Shrew ballet conveys Shakespeare’s wit, brilliant comic invention and sharp understanding of human character.
Cranko’s classically based choreography, combined with a love for acting, means we get to watch a traditional ballet with a storyline which is easy to follow. As there are no words in ballet we rely on the music, facial expressions, gestures, body language and dance styles to show us the story. The company does this so well that what’s meant to be happening is obvious*. (*Unless you’re me, because, having the memory of a goldfish, I’m often jotting down some important note or other, only to realise I’ve missed what just happened!).
We’re in no doubt that Petruchio (Iain Mackay) is supposed to be drunk in the tavern, that Bianca (Jenna Roberts) with her light graceful dancing is the good, if vain, sister or that Katherina (Elisha Willis) with her foot stamping, stiff dancing and frantic xylophone accompaniment, shuns the romantic advances of her sister’s ridiculous suitors as well as those of Petruchio himself. The dance where her resolve weakens, as Petruchio begins to win her over, is a highlight, as is the hilarious and whirlwind wedding scene which concludes act one.
OK, so the story of this feisty, badly behaved young woman being tamed by Petruchio’s frankly cruel treatment and eventually becoming subservient to her husband may not be overly PC, but I suppose she’s been softened by her love for Petruchio and although it’s clear that she wants to please him, she still shows herself to be a force to be reckoned with towards the other guests at her sister’s wedding, so I suppose I’ll have to let Shakespeare off!
Music and Orchestra
Music is by Kurt-HeinzStolze, after Domenico Scarlatti and we don’t recognise it at all.
Accompanying Birmingham Royal Ballet in Bristol are the Company’s full-time orchestra, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under the Musical Directorship of Koen Kessels. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia is Britain’s busiest ballet orchestra, playing for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s wide-ranging programme in the UK and abroad.
Taming of the Shrew – Age Suitability
The boys aren’t huge ballet fans, so I didn’t take any children with me this time, but I think they would have found the plot fairly easy to follow and enjoyed the funny dancing and slapstick elements: the absurd comedy horse; watching Katherina sending her sister’s unwanted suitors flying by kicking their bottoms; smashing the musician’s precious instrument over his head and the strange little priest getting overturned again and again!
Mother was worried it might be one of those super arty modern adaptations where it’s hard to work out what’s going on and everyone’s dressed in modern clothes or bin liners or something, but this is classical rom-com ballet – not arty, just good old-fashioned clever, funny ballet, so she was very happy. The dancing is beautiful, graceful, angry, rebellious, impressive and traditional.
Taming of the Shrew ballet is a joy to watch and for us, it was definitely worth venturing out for, on an otherwise miserable, wet evening!
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
Wednesday 29th June – Saturday 2nd July
Evenings at 7.30pm
Matinee on Thurs at 2.00pm
Matinee on Sat at 2.30pm
Tickets from: £16.40
(This is an affiliate link which means that I’d receive a small percentage of the basic price, if you choose to buy eligible tickets, without you having to pay any extra. Cool right!)
DISCLOSURE: WE RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW.
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