THERE was no need to ‘Brush up your Shakespeare’ at the Lyric Theatre’s dazzling and sharp adaptation of Kiss Me, Kate.
Set both on and off stage during the production of a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, this production revolves around the tempestuous love lives of actor-manager Fred Graham/Petruchio and his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi/Katherine played by Melle Stewart.
This is far from a straight forward text to stage adaptation as Fred’s current squeeze Lois Lane (Jayne Wisener), her gambler boyfriend Bill Calhoun (Jack McCann) and two gangsters, looking payment from an outstanding IOU, all get caught up behind the scenes in a farcical battle of the sexes as the show, as always, must go on.
The audience is introduced to Fred played by Norman Bowman slouched in his dressing gown infront of a huge techicolour TV set which pulls back to reveal a busy backstage where cast and crew are rehearsing for the Taming of the Shrew. There is much more ‘going ons’ than merely learning lines and ‘tech’ work as the 13-strong cast fill the stage and raise the roof with their storming ‘Another Op’nin, Another Show’ number. The pace throughout is fast and crackles along towards the interval as Fred and Lilli lock horns but work to bring the show to life.
Matthew Cavan, a familiar face to many as his cabaret drag act alter ego ‘Miss Cherry Ontop’ welcomes the audience to Act Two with a belter rendition of its ‘Too Darn Hot’ as the whole cast weave in and out of the stalls onto the stage. A special mention must go to Marty Maguire and Darren Franklin, two mobsters looking to ‘collect’ but take time to tell the audience to ‘brush up their Shakespeare’ in a classic comedic set piece. Cast and crew’s energy throughout the two hour running time is infectious as we hurtle towards the finale and the question of can or should the ‘Shrew’ be tamed? A timely question for our age.
The Lyric and NI Opera’s co-production is a high octane, visually beautiful way to kick start the Lyric’s 2020 programme. The ‘Wunder’ bar has been set very high indeed.
Kiss Me, Kate runs at the Lyric Theatre until February 22. For ticket information telephone 02890 381081 or visit www.lyric