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Kiss Me, Kate review at Watermill Theatre, Newbury – ‘bursting with energy’

Rebecca Trehearn and the cast of Kiss Me, Kate at Watermill Theatre, Newbury. Photo: Pamela Raith
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Bursting with energy and movement, Paul Hart’s Kiss Me, Kate is a fun take on the well-loved, if utterly frivolous, musical-within-a-musical.

Playing up the gentle 1940s script’s potential for comedy and mild social commentary, his version is packed with sight gags, withering glances and telling touches, as a bickering, but close-knit company of actors stage a daft musical version of The Taming of the Shrew.

Second act opener Too Darn Hot sizzles as a comment on tensions around racial segregation, while Rebecca Trehearn’s fiery-tempered Lilli fiercely refuses to be subjugated by the men, even during the show’s closing number.

Trehearn shares some great chemistry with David Ricardo-Pearce’s scene-stealing leading man Fred, who does a fine job of balancing ego, playfulness and charm, almost bringing the house down with a mid-song sprint to the mezzanine to interact with the audience.

Meanwhile Kimmy Edwards, as ambitious and avaricious actor Lois, sings a swaggering version of Always True to You, switching confidently between gossipy whispers and roaring sustained notes.

Ambitious choreography from ballroom champion Oti Mabuse crams loads of surprisingly expansive movement into the intimate stage, skilfully finding space for a twelve-strong cast and their instruments to pull off precise spins, lifts, and balletic leaps.

The lush lighting design by Rory Beaton sets it all off, bleeding velvety purples and sticky amber into the space, with a few briskly-timed blackouts thrown in to allow for some busy comic tableaux to unfold.

Dancer Oti Mabuse: ‘I’m bringing everything I’ve learned from Strictly to the rehearsal room’

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Verdict
Energetic, cheerful production of Cole Porter’s light-hearted musical romance
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