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REVIEW | Taming Of The Shrew | Birmingham Royal Ballet

The Taming of the Shrew fight pas de deux: Iain Mackay as Petruchio

Credit: Andrew Ross

There have been many adaptations and revivals of Shakespeare’s classics this year in commemoration of 400 years since his death. Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of Taming Of The Shrew is magnificent, comedic and completely mesmerising.

Elisha Willis, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s stunning dancer that originated David Bintley’s Cinderella, takes to the stage for the last time with BRB as the stubborn Katherina. Whilst it is unfortunate to see her go, she masters the characterisation as the boisterous outspoken young girl who is reluctant to marry.

The Taming Of The Shrew tells the tale of two sisters Katherina and Bianca, whilst Bianca the younger and more prim and polished sister is inundated with suitors who are desperate for her hand in marriage. Katherina shuns any man who attempts to seduce her. When their father disallows Bianca to get married until Katherina has tied the knot, they embark on getting Katherina down the aisle.

Despite the beauty of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s impeccable technique and each enchanting pas de deux, the comedy of the piece is what elevates the production’s excellence. Three suitors who are in love with Bianca Hortensio (Chi Cao), Gremio (Rory Mackay) and Lucent (Brandon Lawrence) are comically outstanding as they attempt to out-do each other in order to allure Bianca’s attention. Particularly Rory Mackay’s disjointed and jagged movements that reflect that of a clown. With exaggerated choreography, Mackay moves without grace which heightens the hilarity as he falls at Bianca’s feet hopelessly in love. When the trio are dressed in disguise, attempting to teach Bianca different skills such as singing and playing the guitar, it is a highly amusing moment in the piece.

The Taming of the Shrew fight pas de deux: Elisha Willis as Katherine and Iain Mackay as Petruchio

Credit: Andrew Ross

It is Lucent that wins Bianca’s heart, and their wedding is a spectacular scene showcasing the talent and precision of the company’s artists and soloists. The set is bold and majestic which is echoed in the lavish costumes, two things that reflect the remarkable extent in which Birmingham Royal Ballet go to in order to create such a transcendent performance.

Elisha Willis’s performance as the strong-minded Katherina is incredibly animated. Whilst her footwork maintains intricacy, her upper body is strong, conveying a powerful aggression through her thumping fists and raging arms as she fights against the suitors. This directly contrasts Jenna Roberts’ performance as Bianca, her elegance is fluid as she dances lightly, creating an air of beauty around her.

Petruchio, played by Ian Mackay, opens the ballet portraying his ignorance and free will as he stumbles drunkenly around the stage. When he meets Katherina, he falls instantly for her, however their two strong personalities conflict. Mackay’s performance is compelling as his long legs leap vigorously across the stage.

White and Mackay dance radiantly opposite each other, their playful movements are interjected with a deeper connection that is displayed through passionate moments of stillness. As the production progresses these moments intensify as the dynamic is enhanced by the tension, creating a final pas de deux that exudes a fervent attachment between the two dancers.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Taming Of The Shrew is a triumph, exquisitely choreographed with superb characterisation by the faultless company.

Taming Of The Shrew is on at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday the 18th of June and tickets can be found here.

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