2012 - The Taming of the Shrew

Review of The Taming of the Shrew
     "Traditional Shrew aims to please"
by Christopher Edmonds on 11/06/12

GB Theatre's Shrew at Exeter Castle - 06/06/12

The sky was overcast but that didn't take the shine off GB Theatre's The Taming of the Shrew at Exeter Castle on Wednesday 6th June. This old fashioned number has long been called a problem play because of it's tricky finale where Katherine who is by now 'tamed' extols the virtues of being obedient to her 'Lord and Husband'.

This doesn't go down well at all in our post feminist world but when GB are all clad in traditional costumes and directed with such sure fire wit and 'tongue in cheek' by the experienced Jenny Stephens then this clunky play has a breath of new life. The whole company seems to be complicit in the joke and no-one is taking the whole proceedings too seriously except that it is very well spoken and acted by a seasoned cast who give great weight to the language and are perfectly accompanied at times by Christopher Dingli's excellent viola interludes.

Naturally the focus falls on the pairing of Katherine and Petruchio and in Lucia McAnespie and David Davies we have a splendid couple of actors. McAnespie brings a genuine longing for fellowship to Kate and succeeds in falling in love with her, 'mad-cap ruffian'. But the night belongs to Davies - swagger, bombast and a voice that rings out in the open air as clear as a bell. He is perfectly cast and manages to make Petruchio attractive in a sort of masculine, over the top, roguish way, so that you feel that you are watching a performance of a man of action who is in desperate need of a good woman to complete him. He certainly leads this company in the way the central character should and you feel that all else revolves around his complete mastery of the text. His is a baritone to be proud of.

The rest of the cast don't disappoint. Peter Dineen has enough presence to make the otherwise forgettable Christopher Sly prologue work and we still care about what has happened to this rabble rousing drunkard for whom 'The Shrew' is being performed, presumably as a lesson in manners and marriage. Christoper Dingli shows great comic touches as Lucentio, Sarah Middleton is delightful as Bianca while Tom Kay is an extremely aloof Hortensio. Gwilym Lloyd finds nuances in the character of Gremio that make him seem like a major part and Simon Yadoo brings a good deal of humour to the part of the servant Grumio as well as adding voices to other supporting parts.

This is outdoor theatre with the main aim to please and it is clear and entertaining. The company doesn't make any real comment about the relationship between men and women or the role of women in society past the obvious bawdy connection between them as they sweat it out in traditional costumes and run around with lutes, swords and tankards in their hands but it is genuine fun and the language is very well spoken by all and throughout.

The company also offers The Tempest directed by Jack Shepherd with the same cast and I imagine that they will go deeper for the more mature play. Their Shrew won't register in any social-political discussions but I am appreciative to the friend who saw the banner and had us join the intimate audience of fifty of so that saw the debut performance of this year's GB Theatre Tour. They deserve bigger and rowdier crowds.

Christoper Edmonds