A romantic musical comedy from the Golden Age, Kiss Me Kate, features some of Cole Porter’s most iconic music such as Too Darn Hot, Brush Up Your Shakespeare and So In Love.
It centres on feuding divorcees Fred and Lilli as they star in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew..
It might seem the perfect choice to add to the Crucible’s long list of Christmas musical treats, but it has not been as simple as that says director Paul Foster.
“Given what has happened over the past 15 months or so with the #MeToo movement and gender politics we have to look at it in a different way than perhaps a company wouldn’t have had to embarking on this in 2015-16 - as recently as that - and you can’t be deaf to it,” he observes.
Of course, the sexual politics of The Taming of the Shrew, has long been troublesome for directors.
“I would never direct Taming of the Shrew,” retorts Foster. “But this keeps encouraging you to compare and contrast. We are going between 1594 Padua seen through Shakespeare’s lens and 1948 Baltimore seen by the Spewacks who wrote the book and Cole Porter’s lens.”
And being performed to a Sheffield audience in 2018 means there are three time frames,” he suggests. “So it encourages you to compare and contrast the two different worlds and see how far we have come and how far we have not come.
“If you were to follow the stage directions verbatim of the show within the show, the big scene in Act One, they knock ten bells out of each other andit ends with a woman being spanked. And the next musical cue is called After Spanking.
“We’re trying to get away from the Benny Hill, Seaside Postcard, Petticoats in the Air kind of approach to that.
“It’s a bit darker than we think and Kate Waters, who is this incredible fight director, and I had a couple of meetings about how we might present that, how we might do the storytelling and feel we could look each other in the eye.
“I am not interested in rolling the eyes at the audience and doing an ‘allo, ‘allo kind of thing . So we are trying to look at the reality of it as much as possible, what we are comfortable looking at and what we are not.
“The carapace of all this is that it’s a big musical comedy with some frothy numbers as well and you want to keep a balance tonally so it feels like a grown up piece of work which can entertain but move people as well. And we have done something to the ending – which I won’t give away – which will make it feel as though we have looked at it through a slightly different lens.”
Paul Foster is returning to the Crucible after directing Annie Get Your Gun in 2016/7. Which rather begs the question of what he was doing last Christmas. At home, it seems.
“I have two kids and my wife is the headteacher of a big high school and I think the moment you have two parents working full-time the kind of hours a director and a headteacher do it’s very hard for the kids. They are 11 and seven. She’s just started high school and last Christmas was doing her SATS and I don’t want to be the sort of parent leaving notes on the fridge.
“I try and do about three decent things a year and then I am at home. If I am away from home unless it is a passion project, something you believe in, it is just not worth the domestic upheaval. If it’s a job which takes you away from home and your childrenyou have to pour absolutely everything into it or else what’s the point.”
Kiss Me Kate starts previews at the Crucible tonight, Thursday, December 6, and continues until January 12.