First Encounter: Taming of the Shrew

William Shakespeare (abridged)
Royal Shakespeare Company
Grand Theatre, Blackpool

Cross-dressing comedy in a First Encounter with Taming of the Shrew

It won’t be the first time a bridegroom-to-be has turned up in Blackpool wearing a Superman outfit...

Maybe it’s the first, though, where ‘he’ was a she, and a leading member of the Royal Shakespeare Company at that!

It was all part of the cross-dressing and cross-cultural fun as the RSC hosted this First Encounter production of the Bard’s play about mismatched match-making.

The added twist here being that female actors take the male roles, while the males get the pick of the dressing-up basket.

It’s all part of the company’s three-year mission to tour productions to five regional theatres, and their local schools, in order to create a first experience of seeing Shakespeare live.

By taming this Shrew to just 70 minutes they’ve come up with a performance that gives easy access to all areas of the original, even if some of the text is necessarily rushed in this fast-forward version. The cast of 10 still hit all the right punchlines dead on time.

And there’s more than adequate compensation in the physical flourishes they manage, some of them closer to early Three Stooges slapstick than late Tudor comedy.

As Kate and Petruchio, the couple who find love can be forged from adversity, RSC associate artists Forbes Masson and Katy Stephens are especially adept, he a nut-cracking menace in a frock, and a ginger beard, she a hyperactive suitor in a slick suit.

Whether it was your first encounter with their characters, or your umpteenth, little was lost in this rapid translation, and the region’s school pupils, in particular, have everything to gain from a ground-breaking relationship.

In the final year the Grand will create a Shakespeare Festival with schools, colleges, and the RSC.

Reviewer: David Upton