Taunton Thespians stride out on RSC tour with Taming of the Shrew

Somerset County Gazette: BATTLE of wills between Katherina (Martine Davis) and Petruchio (Rob Adam). PHOTO: Steve Richardson. BATTLE of wills between Katherina (Martine Davis) and Petruchio (Rob Adam). PHOTO: Steve Richardson.

ANY Taunton Thespian will tell you William Shakespeare was – and remains – the king of the playwrights.

So for our county town dramatists to be hand-picked by the Royal Shakespeare Company for its backing and the proper Bard treatment, and to tour with The Taming of the Shrew, is about as good as it gets.

On Tuesday, Taunton Thespians strode out on their feisty, RSC-supported summer tour of 7.30pm shows at a spectrum of outdoor Somerset venues.

The Taming of the Shrew is the tale of Petruchio’s courtship of Katherina, the headstrong, obdurate “shrew”.

Having initially been an unwilling participant in the relationship, Katherina is dealt various psychological torments by Petruchio until she becomes a compliant and obedient bride.

The traditional tale is dark and controversial, but the Thespians’ version, which brings the play into 1930s Italy, cannily reinterprets this core element.

“The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays,” director Rachel Buttell says.

“It has some of the best insults anywhere in Shakespeare, all in iambic pentameter, which makes them even better.

“Then we have this difficult idea of the wife who isn’t allowed to have an independent spirit – since the sexual revolution there seems to be no place for it.

“But if you believe Shakespeare is all things to all people you can make the argument for different interpretations of that.

“In our version Katherina is hostile and fed up with being the most intelligent person in her immediate circle.

“Suddenly, a man holds up a mirror to her nature and she realises that hers isn’t the way to behave in society.

“As a result they approach their marriage on a more even footing.”

The cast were twice invited to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace and home to the RSC workshops.

Rachel said: “It was incredibly exciting for us being able to perform at The Courtyard Theatre, and having amazing access to that professionalism and experience.

“You wanted to be a sponge. It has given us scope of things to think about.”

Taunton Thespians’ remaining summer tour dates are: Thursday, July 17, and Wednesday July 23, at the Museum of Somerset, Taunton; Friday, July 18, Compton House Hotel, Axbridge; Saturday, July 19, Muchelney Abbey; Tuesday, July 22, Dillington House; Thursday, July 24, Roadwater recreation ground; Friday, July 25, Mount Somerset Hotel, Henlade; Saturday, July 26, Hartwood House, Crowcombe Heathfield.

Tickets cost £12 or £4 for concessions from Taunton TIC on 01823-336344 or www.tauntonthespians.org.uk

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