This excellent adaptation of the somewhat lesser known play, performed by The Royal Shakespeare Company at The Grand Theatre, is primarily aimed at school audiences. But in reality it was an amazing performance, by talented actors, which appealed to all age groups. This play within a play depicts a group of actors who find an old house. In one of the rooms they find trunks of clothing from various eras and wear them during the enactment of a play which tells the timeless story of troubled, melancholic but ultimately joyful love. This contrasts quite strongly with the tale of abuse and misogyny often presented.

The director, Michael Fentiman, chose this so as to dispel the infamy of the story. All the male roles are played by women and all the female roles by men. Fentiman did this as he felt that it would provide a natural balance of masculine and feminine to come through in each character, thus enabling the audience to focus more closely on the human being rather than the gender role that is associated with that person’s sex. And of course in Shakespeare’s day all of the actors would have been male, so it added a touch of authenticity. The setting is in Padua, and unusually is set in two time eras. The women (played by men) occupy an Elizabethan world, and the men (played by women) occupy a modern one. Fentiman describes it as Moderbethan.

In brief, it is the story of Kate, the ‘shrew’ and Petruchio. Petruchio is looking for a bride, whilst Kate, the eldest daughter of Madame Baptista, must find a husband or her prettier younger sister Bianca may never marry. Many men would like to marry Bianca but Kate is less popular due to her acerbic temperament. The only man brave enough to take her on is Petruchio. Whilst Bianca’s suitors vie for her affection, Kate and Petruchio embark on a mad quest to see how far the other will go in love.

This tale, which could be described as darkly comedic, has, like many of The Bard’s plays been categorised in two genres, comedy and tragedy. Whilst the story is darkly comedic, tonight’s version is best described as a comedy. The portrayal of Kate by Forbes Masson was particularly amusing. Imagine a big, bearded Scots guy in a white wedding dress! Kate’s abrasiveness was emphasised by his strong Scots accent. The wedding day saw Petruchio arrive in a Batman costume claiming, “To me she’s married not to my clothes,” which was received with considerable mirth.

After the performance, the audience had the opportunity to participate in a questions and answers session with the cast which was very enlightening. The audience were also encouraged to participate in a re-enactment of a brief snippet from the performance. The school groups in particular really enjoyed this, although everyone else joined in too.

Although the play is geared towards 8 to 13 year olds, it will appeal be anyone who enjoys Shakespeare, be they 8 or 80. For parents who want to introduce their child to The Bard, this is the perfect opportunity to do so.  

The Taming of the Shrew has moved on to Leicester now but following hot on its heels, and fresh from the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, is Eternal Love which starts at Blackpool Grand Theatre on 11th March.  Read our preview here.

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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