REVIEW: Tricky Shakespeare play brought to life by Heartbreak Productions in Leamington

Abigail Castleton asKatherine
Abigail Castleton asKatherine
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Nick Le Mesurier reviews The Taming of the Shrew, presented by Heartbreak Productions in Jephson Gardens, Leamington

There’s no way round it: for all its entertainment value, The Taming of the Shrew is a disturbing play.

The discomfort we feel at the hard time given to Katherine by her arrogant husband Petrucio is hard to deny, even if we go for some of the redemptive explanations offered by critics and audiences down the years. Does Katherine give Petrucio his just deserts in her final speech, where she might or might not turn the tables on him and embarrass him in public for his humiliation of her? Or has he really broken her will?

Either way, Heartbreak has done a good job in bringing this tricky play to life. Much of the credit is due to the cast, particularly Abigail Castleton as Katherine. To watch her change from a clever, feisty woman trapped in a man’s world to a weak, exhausted creature, worn down by Petrucio’s relentless strategies of distortion, is to be moved in every sense. There is many a military force that could use his skill in breaking a captive’s will. Ross Ford is the very embodiment of masculine arrogance, with more than an eye on the favour of his mates, with whom he has bet he can tame the ball-breaking Kate.

Thank goodness for the humour, of which there is plenty, both verbal and slapstick. A good deal of water is sloshed around, and there is a clever use of audience participation. This crew can think fast on their feet, and they brought more than a ray of sunshine to this daring play on a chilly summer’s evening.

* Visit www.heartbreakproductions.co.uk for future tour dates.