The Stuttgart Ballet is undoubtedly a talented troupe. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, they entertained with 13 different works – all created in Germany – in a fascinating programme demonstrating the company's versatility and strength. But this weekend's fare – a ballet inspired by and named after Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew - has much less to impress.
The subtleties of the original are entirely lost in John Cranko's choreography, which relies on character caricatures and slapstick humour to engage the audience. The movements he uses, including lots of hip wiggles and sideways gallops, have also dated hugely since the ballet was created in 1969.
The shrew of the title, Katerina (danced Friday night by Sue Jin Kang), becomes a toddler having a tantrum as she shakes her fists, stamps her feet and hits wedding guests with a bouquet of flowers. We understand nothing of why she is so volatile, nor later why or how she is suddenly 'tamed'. We are left with the unpleasant aftertaste that she succumbed in order to avoid her husband's abuse of starving and freezing her.
It's not a great message – that domestic violence results in happy submission from your wife – nor is it something we found funny. But most of the rest of the audience seemed to be laughing uncontrollably, so perhaps it is simply a question of taste and sense of humour.
The Stuttgart Ballet is a superb company but The Taming of the Shrew is not a work we enjoyed seeing them showcased in.
The Taming of the Shrew is at Sadler's Wells the afternoon and evening of 23 November only. Tickets priced £12-45 are available from the Sadler's Wells website. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review the performance.
Photo: Stuttgart Ballet