Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Taming of the Shrew

William Shakespeare
Heartbreak Productions
Rockingham Castle and touring
(2011)

The Taming of the Shrew production photo

Despite the horrendous weather and wintry conditions in July this hard working company battled with the elements to warm the hearts and minds of those experiencing this ever so controversial of Shakespeare's plays.

The Taming of the Shrew does still feel a little outdated - which is perhaps why Director Maddy Kerr had decided to set the piece in the 1920's - a day after the Reform Bill for Equal Franchise for Women had become law.

This time period is an interesting choice and on the whole worked well. However, it did feel at odds with the message of the play at points - was Katharina's downtrodden journey and sudden change of heart ('Thy husband is thy lord') really a parallel with the struggle of the suffragettes? The idea that this is a wealthy family putting on a performance did negate the notion that a troupe of actors had just turned up at Rockingham Castle - however the concept was slightly confusing at points - especially when you consider the multi-role playing cast of five.

Where the setting did work, the production was wonderfully playful. The slapstick scenes in particular were well staged and showed a strong sense of timing, bringing out a naughty side to the characters.

Certainly the high moments (perhaps predictably) centred on the relationship between Petruchio - played with a convincing confidence and swagger by Lawrence Stubbings - and Helen Rynne's fiery Kate. Their meeting scene ('come sit on me') was full of fight and energy - creating an immediately sparky, almost dangerous rapport. The scene was a great introduction to the two characters and it felt as though the audience wanted to see more.

Another moment of great aplomb was the wedding scene - the performers created a lovely contrast with Petruchio's madness (imagine the bridegroom in a purple dress) played against Kate's genuine upset at being shamed in such an outrageous way.

And so Heartbreak has a great deal to offer this summer. As well as The Taming of the Shrew they are touring Pinocchio and Pride and Prejudice in nationwide tours. Let's hope that the British summer time is kinder and that the playing space more sheltered - for there is a great deal to admire here.

'The Taming of the Shrew tours' until 28th August 2011, 'Pride and Prejudice' until 29th August 2011 and 'Pinocchio' until 27th August 2011

Reviewer: John Johnson