first night

Kiss Me, Kate

DULOG

‘The Taming of the Shrew’ has been reimagined many times and Cole Porter’s ‘Kiss me, Kate!’ sees two feuding divorced actors playing out Shakespeare’s Rom Com on and off stage. Despite the sexist premise of the drama, that a woman who resists marriage is a ‘shrew’, I found the Shakespearean sections more engaging than the fifties frame, particularly because of Russell Park’s hilarious turn as a melodramatic Baptista. I think this is because, apart from Hannah Howie’s Lilli Vanessi and Doug Gibbs’ Fred Graham, the frame characters were not well developed. However, it seems to me that this is potentially more the result of Porter’s writing than DULOG’s production. Porter will never surpass Shakespeare.  
It was Howie who made Vanessi and Katharine command the stage by developing two complimentary, yet different, characters.  Her rendition of ‘So in Love’ was beautiful and ‘I Hate men’ was brilliantly terrifying! Her interaction with the orchestra was ingenious and exemplified why Julia Loveless has become DULOG’s go-to Director. Howie, however, did eclipse Gibbs, particularly in the first half, as his Petruchio was more likable and, strangely, less melodramatic than his Graham. However, Gibbs and Howie had great chemistry and sparkled in the musical number ‘Wunderbar’ and the dressing room exchanges.
I liked the dressing room set and the scenery was generally good with seamless changes. Emma Cave should be praised for her choreography, as should the talented dancers and singers who formed the chorus. Simon Lynch brilliantly headlined the electric opening to the second act, ‘Too Darn Hot’ and it’s a shame that there are not more chorus numbers in this show.
Generally, the musical numbers were faultless yet, unfortunately, some sound failings meant that some people could not be heard, notably Izzy Osborne at the beginning, and some diction was indiscernible. I also found this with some moments in RENT. DULOG may want to think about this for next year. This was dramatised when one microphone fell off the curtain which was well covered by Daisy Newlyn who showed her experience by keeping in character.
Newlyn and Joe Leather were individually good in ‘Why Can’t You Behave?’ and ‘Always True to You in My Fashion’ but were somewhat lacking in chemistry. This was particularly evident in comparison with Howie/Gibbs and Maxwell Spence/Charlie Warner, who created a brilliant comic gangster duo. I liked their use of contrasting pitches of voices, their jester costumes and Warner’s dopey swagger. ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ was a highlight of the evening.
It is hard not to compare this production with ‘Oklahoma!’ and ‘RENT’. Although it was nice to see different people showcasing Durham’s talent in leading roles, and it was a great achievement that the production came together in such a short time, ‘Kiss me, Kate!’ was not as polished or enjoyable as its counterparts this year. However, I look forward to what next year holds in store for DULOG!
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Rebecca Flynn

16 June 2012

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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