3-5 November 2016
Reviewed by Angela Paull
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Welsh National Opera’s performance of “Kiss Me, Kate” at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. The Mayflower is in the centre of Southampton and surrounded by a multitude of car parks. With a bright welcoming foyer, fabulously friendly staff and bars/restaurant it has everything you need for a great night out.
Kiss Me, Kate is a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, based upon a divorced couple who are playing the lead parts in a Baltimore production of the show. A real case of life imitating art, the action moves seamlessly between the stage production and the behind the scenes drama.
Jeni Bern and Quirijn de Lang as the lead characters Lilli Vanessi/Kate and Fred Graham/Petruchio bring just the right amount of shrewishness and bullishness to the performance with lots of slaps, whacks and insults being thrown around. Whilst Petruchio is busy taming Kate on stage their behind the scenes will they, won’t they love story seeps through and we have plenty of barbed asides thrown in for good measure.
In the sub plot we see Amelia Adams-Pearce as Lois Lane/Bianca paired with Alan Burkitt as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio. A hopeless gambler who signs an IOU in Fred Graham’s name and a showgirl getting her first shot at real stardom. Both performers have solo moments within the production that are real showstoppers. The latter’s tap solo was superb and a great musical number from the high-kicking former that make you realise that perhaps it’s not just the hopeless gambler, Bill, who is the bad guy in this relationship.
I have to say though that the standout performances for me were by Joseph Shovelton and John Savournin as the first and second gunmen. A pair of henchman who have come to make good on the IOU, their facial expressions and gawkiness, when they end up as actors on stage, were a joy to behold. Specific mention also has to be made of their rendition of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” – a real vaudeville style gigglefest, I shall be humming it for days to come.
The real joy of this show is there are so many different elements to enjoy. Part opera, musical, comedy and dance act there really is something for everybody here. The whole cast was pitch perfect, the choreography packed with elements of tap & ballet and the comedy was of the laugh out loud variety.
The costumes were excellent and the musical score just perfect. There are some familiar up tempo numbers – including the fabulous opener “Another Op’nin Another Show” (led brilliantly by Landi Oshinowo) that really keep the pace flowing. Make no mistake, this is a lengthy production of some 3 hours and whilst I did start to get a bit fidgety toward the end this was wholly due to slightly cramped seating (as is normal in most theatres) and nothing to do with the calibre of the production.
As we were leaving I heard lots of comments along the lines of “Well that was different”, “I wasn’t expecting that” swiftly followed by “But it was rather good wasn’t it!”. That pretty much sums this up – probably not what you’d expect of an opera company but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t darned good!
Tickets costs from £8 to £44 (booking fees may apply).
Kiss Me, Kate is at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton until 5 November 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 02380 711811.
Mayflower Theatre, Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1GE | 02380 711811