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The Tamer Tamed

John Fletcher
RSC at the Queen's Theatre
(2004)

The Tamer Tamed is a rarely performed sequel to The Taming of the Shrew. Whilst nowhere near the quality of the original, it makes a nice companion piece to the RSC's production of that play at the same theatre.

Gregory Doran has used largely the same cast and set but does not manage to create as great an element of mischievous fun as that which made The Taming of the Shrew such a success.

Sadly, Kate has died and the new play opens with Petruchio's wedding to his second wife Maria. He's as drunk as at his first wedding but it doesn't last.

Maria (Alexandra Gilbreath) is a militant feminist who barricades herself in her house and denies conjugal rights to the newly married man. In this she is supported by Petruchio's sister-in-law Bianca (Eve Myles) and her own sister Livia, the latter played by Naomi Frederick.

Despite entreaties from the desperate Petruchio (Jasper Britton) and Maria's choleric father, Petronius (played by David Horovitch), nothing will move the trio. Soon, the town's monstrous regiment of women (and men - the RSC saving on extras with a couple of less than dainty men in skirts) has joined the war .

As a result, Livia, has to pretend to have fallen out of love with the increasingly desperate Rowland (Daniel Brocklebank) and even to play up to gruesome Gremio (Christopher Godwin).

By this stage, that old letch is an ancient letch and it is in this tripartite relationship, with assistance from Petronius that the funniest moments in this play lie.

The Tamer Tamed has far less of the robust excitement and great humour of the original production but it still contains many funny moments and historically, its feminist text is a refreshing rarity.

It is unlikely that many people other than scholars will go to see this play without first seeing The Taming of the Shrew. It may not be of the first order but it is still worth a visit in particular because it sheds considerable new light on Petruchio's character. It might also be several hundred years before it reaches a London stage again.

This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version

Steve Orme reviewed this production when it was originally performed at the Swan, Stratford, and Peter Lathan reviewed it as part of the RSC Newcastle season.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher