FULL steam ahead is the only way to approach Shakespeare’s early salutary comedy The Taming of the Shrew, in which he lays down the ground plans for Much Ado About Nothing.
And that is just how it’s done in Adela Forestier-Walker’s production for the Athenaeum Limelight Players in Warminster, on stage in Wiltshire before its performance in Stratford-on-Avon as part of the Shakespeare anniversary celebrations.
In the Italian city of Padua, Bianca, the pretty younger daughter of merchant Minola, is courted by three eager suitors, but her father can’t let her go until her famously bad tempered older sister Katherina is safely married.
The arrival of the peculiar and roistering Petruchio seems to offer the solution. He needs a wealthy wife, and has his own method of breaking Kate’s termagant spirit.
It’s a hard story in these post women’s lib days, and performances of the play stand or fall on the chemistry between the couple. It could hardly be bettered than that of Jackie Brown’s Kate and Jonathan Saunt-Lord’s Petruchio. They convey a tangible attraction from the first and so the production has an immediately convincing heart.
The large cast, colourfully costumed by Cate Hiscocks and her team, provide the side stories and the broad comedy, as Bianca is wooed and won and preconceptions about Kate are dashed … in the dash to wedded bliss.
Particularly memorable among the ensemble are Richard Clarke’s hilarious Grumio, Jay Cullen’s charmingly infectious smile as Tranio-turned-Lucentio, Charlotte Stringer’s giggly Belladonna, Bozsi Davis as Curtis the “bearded” servant, Jules Porter’s ancient suitor Gremio and Marc Cox’s energetic Biondello.
It’s a hugely enjoyable production, cleverly staged, and the verse is beautifully spoken by most of this large cast.
The Taming of the Shrew is on at Warminster until Saturday 21st May.