Brushing up Cole Porter

kmk-OV-website-400x600Malcolm has been this way before, but on Wednesday the Lady in his Life, the Pert Young Piece and the man himself redeemed their tickets for Trevor Nunn’s Kiss Me Kate at the Old Vic.

Believe Malcolm: the production does everything it says on the posters. Hannah Waddington (Lilli, Katherine) and her facial acting (as below) are worth the entry alone. The voices, for once, meet all expectations (does Ms Waddington actually need amplification?). How, for heaven’s sake, can — is it really that number? — some sixteen very active dancers all fit on the Old Vic’s limited stage?

But, then, Malcolm always reckoned Porter did a better job than Will did for himself.

Kiss Me Kate, at the Old Vic, London.

Sure enough …

The lady occupying the seat next to Malcolm spent as much time as possible reading her novel. At the final curtain, Malcolm had to nod to her, and mutter the usual pleasured inanities.

She, however, was not persuaded. She was far too feministically offended by Katherina’s concluding:

Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband’s foot:
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready; may it do him ease.

Umm, yes. Difficult, that …

Except, Toby Frow’s production of the Shrew at the Globe got away with it, through a neat device. Which Malcolm passed over lightly last August.

When Katherina and Petruchio first meet (Act II, scene i), there is an electric moment, a double beat, as opponents recognise each other’s worth. Thenceforth they, and we the audience are involved in their knowing, convoluted and perverse gender-game. So, this final moment is sub-texted by the wager between Petruchio and Lucentio, which is the hat-peg for the final scene:

Petruchio: Twenty crowns!
I’ll venture so much of my hawk or hound,
But twenty times so much upon my wife.
Lucentio: A hundred then.
Petruchio: A match! ’tis done.

So Katherina’s final speech (in this version, — informed by Grumio? — she seems privy to the bet) is tailed by Petruchio collecting his dues:

‘Twas I won the wager, though you hit the white;
And, being a winner, God give you good night!

After all, Petruchio blew to Padua here from old Verona, to

thrust myself into this maze,
Haply to wive and thrive as best I may…

And Katherina, his equal, help-mate, and partner, is well-prepared to help him to wive and thrive. After all, she is an actress capable of the most titanic explosions of passion.

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Filed under Cole Porter, Cole Porter, Literature, London, Old Vic, Shakespeare, Theatre

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