Taming of the Shrew
RSC at the Queen's Theatre
London should be grateful to Thelma Holt and Bill Kenwright for bringing this RSC production south. It is to be hoped that their enterprise will be rewarded by the packed houses that Greg Doran's excellent version so richly deserves.
Above all, Doran seeks the humour in every line and every move. As a consequence, the three hours fly by feeling like half of that time.
He is helped by the choice of the Queen's Theatre which, with its small stage, creates an intimate feel that might make artistic director, Michael Boyd think deeply before selecting a much-needed permanent London home for the company.
Alexandra Gilbreath and Jasper Britton make a good pairing as the "two raging fires", Katharine and Petruchio. The balance between love and war is generally right, as drunken sot woos and wins his robust firebrand and then trains her like a hawk with a mixture of love, brutality and humour.
By the end, while Katharine might have been tamed, she is undoubtedly happy. The director leaves his audience in little doubt that while they may have their ups and downs, this couple will derive great enjoyment from their marriage. Further, though Petruchio may have won the initial battle, there is no guarantee that he has won the lifelong war.
By comparison, Eve Myles' attractively twittering Bianca and her long list of suitors led by the mature Gremio, Christopher Godwin are put into the shade. This is no comment on the acting but Doran's direction, which ensures that both leads shine.
The night is not just dominated by two people. It is almost stolen by Simon Trinder as servant's servant, Biondello, a cheeky slapstick clown with a broad Lancastrian accent.
Shakespeare can be regarded as rather dry but this wonderful Taming of the Shrew is pure high-class entertainment. It is packed with energy and moments of great wit and above all offers a real sense of fun.
This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version
Steve Orme reviewed this production when it was first performed at Stratford.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher