Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Kiss Me Kate

By Cole Porter
Watermill, Newbury

One of the stranger things about Cole Porter’s crowd-pleasing musical is how much of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew it contains. There’s a reason for this, of course. The jolly libretto by Sam and Bella Spewack revolves around a ragged performance of that comedy, whose leading actors’ jagged, post-romantic relationship ironically mirrors that of the characters they’re playing. It’s a nice way of getting reacquainted with Shrew, but it certainly fluffs out the running time. And it’s a shame the play without the play revels in, rather than reviles, the sexism of the original. Nevertheless, in the charming confines of the Watermill, this is a winning Kiss Me, Kate, catching fire, as it should, in the chemistry between the leads. Rebecca Trehearn is an unimprovable Kate, intelligent and sad. And as Petruchio, David Ricardo Pearce proves swashbucklingly adept at negotiating Porter’s verbal gymnastics (“I’ve come to wive it wealthily in Padua/ I heard you say, ‘Gadzooks! Completely mad you are’” and so on). Their genial mutual mistrust slaps a smile on your face from the off. And there it stays, even if, at times, it feels a little fixed.