Havant Arts Centre: Thursday 7th May to Saturday 9th May and Thursday 14th May to Saturday 16th May 1981
Fareham & Gosport Drama Centre: Thurs 21st May 1981
Directed by Peter Corrigan
The flamboyant Petruchio wins the unruly Kate's hand in marriage. Will his unconventional methods succeed in curing her temper and scolding tongue? Shakespeare explores the sexual politics of marriage in one of his earliest and most controversial comedies.
The Taming of the Shrew has been dated as early as 1589, which would make it not only Shakespeare's first comedy but also his first play. The play starts with the Induction where a trick is played by a nobleman on the drunkard Christopher Sly who arranges for an acting troupe to perform a play called The Taming of the Shrew...
The beautiful and gentle Bianca has no shortage of admirers (Lucentio, Gremio and Hortensio) but her father insists that she will not marry until her shrewish elder sister, Katherina, is betrothed. Bianca's suitors persuade fortune-seeker Petruchio to court Katharina. The suitors pay for any costs involved and there is also the goal of Katherina's dowry. Petruchio marries Katherina and he carries Katherina off to his country house with his servant Grumio. Petruchio intends to browbeat Katherina into submission and he denies her food, sleep and her new clothes, whilst continuously singing her praises. Katherina is tamed. They return to Padua where Lucentio has won Bianca. At a banquet they wager on who has the most obedient wife. Each wife is issued with commands but only Katharina obeys and promptly lectures everyone on the importance of wifely submission.
This play was staged for six performances at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. Following the Havant run, the play was taken to the Fareham and Gosport Drama Centre for one night only.
|Cart by||Ed Sawyer|
|Publicity Design||Chris Shaw|
|Front of House||Ruth Prior|
The play is set in Italy and the time and customs are those of Shakespeare's own period. The first part of the play is set in Padua, the second in Petruccio's house in Verona before returning to Padua.
Most modern productions of "The Taming of the Shrew are only partial enactments of the play Shakespeare wrote. The version we see most frequently is in fact the play-within-a-play. The story of Katherina the shrew is performed by a troupe of travelling players to entertain Christopher Sly, a drunken tinker, upon whom an elaborate practical trick is being played by a rich lord. These scenes are rarely included because they need good actors who spend most of the play simply watching. Also the Induction scenes as they are called, fade out of the play and are not referred to again after Act 1 Scene 1.
The present production reluctantly dispenses with the Induction but maintains the original contaxt in which it was set, that is, as a performance by a troupe of travelling players. It is performed against hangings and without scenery. The emphasis has been upon the lines. It is not an attempt to recreate accurately a period of theatrical history, but rather to concentrate the attention upon Shakespeare's play.
Male chauvinists may love it, pro-feminists may despise it, but there is no doubt that 'The Taming of the Shrew' is classic Shakespeare comedy at its very best. Place the play in the capable hands of Havant's Bench Theatre and you are on to a winner - what a pity there was such a pitifully small audience at the Havant Arts Centre last night to appreciate it. For last nights performance proved beyond doubt that the Bench Theatre players have - with a seemingly deceptive ease - captured the very spirit of an immensely funny comedy which covers a whole range of moods from melancholic sadness and foul-tempered anger to frustrated love and bawdy farce.
The success of the production - under the expert control of director Peter Corrigan and producer Ray Osborne - is due in no small part to the stunning performances of the two lead roles. For two hours, Jill Sawyer lived the part of Katherina, the unmanageable, moody daughter of Baptista (Derek Cusdin) spitting out her abuse to the world with a frighteningly realistic venom before obediently succumbing to the orders of her loving husband Petruchio. David Penrose provided the perfect foil as the masterful determined husband who eventually 'tames the shrew', displaying an enviable cool arrogance and the self-assured command.
John Scadding splendidly over-acted the role of Petruchio's long-suffering servant Grumio, while David Roberts - in his first appearance with the Bench - perfected his part as the embittered, untrustworthy, stooping, Gremio - one of several suitors vying for the love of Katherina's mild mannered sister, Bianca (Jo German). Lucentio (Roger Thurling) was the man who eventually won Bianca's hand, thanks to the help of his quick-thinking, role-swopping servant Tranio (Chris Shaw). Terry Cattermole took on the role of the luckless Hortensio - the third man trying to win Bianca's love - and young Adam Richards showed zest and a promising confidence as Biondello.
'The Taming of the Shrew' continues at Havant Arts Centre tonight (Saturday), and Thursday, Friday and Saturday next week (all performances at 7.30 p.m.). The Bench players are also taking the play to the Fareham and Gosport Drama Centre on May 21.
The News, 9th May 1981