You could be forgiven for thinking that with its message of contentment achieved through wifely obedience, that Taming of the Shrew has little to offer today's audience. But with its themes of family, friendship, love, romance and madcap plots, there is much that still resonates with modern life and all of this was very ably portrayed by the Athenaeum Limelight Players.
The play opened to a beautiful set which immediately set the tone for the rest of the show -
Shakespearean dialogue needs to be delivered with strong acting performances for today's audience to ‘tune in’ and the whole cast managed this exceptionally well. We worried along with Baptista (Graham Thomas) for his daughters’ futures, we hoped along with Lucentio (Jamie House) that his deception would not be discovered and he’d win Bianca’s (Maddy Holly) heart and we shared the fun in Tranio (Jay Cullen) and Vincentio (Robert Lewis) trying to pretend they were someone they were not and not get found out.
The lead characters with the most responsibility for delivering the story, didn't disappoint. As the play began, Jackie Brown left us in no doubt about what a difficult, waspish personality Katherina Minola was and yet she was also able to portray the change in Katherina and she fell in love with Petruchio.
Petruchio, (Jonathan Saunt-
While the main characters are important, a production is nothing without a good supporting cast, director, wardrobe, scenery, technical support, teamwork and a real love of theatre which comes across to the audience. The Athenaeum Limelight Players have all this in abundance and I look forward, with anticipation, to Jekyll and Hyde this November.
Jekyll and Hyde
Richard Clarke created a cleverly constructed set for Jekyll and Hyde allowing the audience immediately to see both sides of Dr Jekyll’s life. The comfortable Victorian parlour and the secret, private laboratory are on view throughout the play. The difference in the two rooms seemed to reflect both sides of Dr Jekyll.
Athenaeum Limelight Players delivered a performance true to the story, they did not shy away from some of the more difficult Victorian attitudes and they managed to create an atmosphere that at times had their audience on the edge of their seats.
Of course what anyone wonders, when seeing Jekyll and Hyde, is how will they manage the transformation of one to the other? Robert Billen, playing Jekyll, achieved it through an incredible piece of acting. One moment he was the mild mannered Dr Jekyll and the next through posture, speech and attitude he convinced the audience he was the terror that was Mr Hyde. Later in the play we see the struggle between Jekyll and Hyde as Mr Hyde becomes stronger and Robert is to be congratulated on how he portrayed these two very distinct personalities, convincingly, at the same time, it was outstanding.
We saw mirrored personalities throughout the play; there was Celestine (Hayley Shepard) the well-
Then there was Robert Lewis, who was quite intimidating in his portrayal of the Butler Poole and Hilda (Eleanor Marsh) the parlour maid who was a caring motherly figure towards Charlotte, the maid. Ruby Hyde, gave a heartfelt performance as the spirited, uneducated but savvy maid who had the misfortune to be a favourite of Mr Hyde.
We also had the arguments between religion and science clearly played out in the first scene in the dialogue with Dr Jekyll between Dr Lanyon (Andrew Chapman) and Utterson (Richard Clarke). This was an important part of the play for the audience, setting the backdrop to Dr Jekyll’s experiments.
One aspect of this production that really stood out for me were the monologues, particularly when Dr Jekyll was alone onstage reviewing his experiments. He managed to keep the audience in the palm of his hand!
Costume, lighting, incidental sound and music all added to the drama and increasing tension throughout the performance. It's clear that the Athenaeum Limelight Players have as much talent and creativity backstage as they do on stage. I look forward with anticipation to their next production.
By Leslie Blain
©The Athenaeum Limelight Players 2021