Review: Outdoor St Albans production of The Taming of the Shrew? by Breakaway Theatre Company

PUBLISHED: 13:50 30 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:12 30 June 2018

Picture: Sebastian Springer

Picture: Sebastian Springer

Archant

A Shakespearean performance in the backdrop of Verulamium Park’s green, enjoyed as the sun sets on a mild summer evening, is always going to be a winner.

Picture: Sebastian SpringerPicture: Sebastian Springer

Both this weekend and next the open-air Breakaway Theatre Company’s production of The Taming of the Shrew? will be presented to audiences at the Inn On The Park.

This is the fifth annual summer Shakespeare production presented by the am dram group, but this year St Albans Radio Verulam presenter Danny Smith was also debuting on stage.

He played Petruchio and Susie Wyeth, who joined the company last year, was his co-star Katherina.

Both newbies, they had a confident stage presence and bounced off each other with obvious rapport.

Picture: Sebastian SpringerPicture: Sebastian Springer

The whole cast were convincing, bringing a lighthearted tone to a difficult subject and facing head-on the misogynistic undertones of the controversial play.

Director Clare Waller deliberately added a question mark to the title, asking the audience to question whether Katherina is a shrew or has been tamed.

She explained why an induction from the original text was removed: “Shakespeare used [it] to frame the main story and almost excuse the actions that happen within.

“I made the decision to cut this, as it is not a device that is carried through the whole play and I wanted to explore the issues raised, not push them to one side.”

Picture: Sebastian SpringerPicture: Sebastian Springer

The decision to set the text in the 21st Century was natural and well-executed - especially when assistant director Abigail Giles swaggered on-stage in a backwards cap and Danny stumbled into his wedding sporting a feather boa after ‘Petruchio’s Stag Do’.

A nice way to introduce diversity into the play was turning Bianca’s lovers into lesbian roles. It was handled well and the text altered slightly to ward off confusion.

Most of the ‘taming’, (read: abuse), happens in the second half - with Petruchio keeping Katherina sleep deprived and starving, forcing her to agree with lies.

Unfamiliar with the play, I found certain scenes in the second half uncomfortable to watch. However, that is only testament to how engaging the cast were and immersed I was in the performance. Bravo everyone!

Picture: Sebastian SpringerPicture: Sebastian Springer

Tickets are available at www.breakawaytheatre.com

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CountryPhile

I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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