This is the third year running that I have been to review a performance by Oxford Shakespeare Company and they really do go from strength to strength. Chris Pickles has shaped and styled the script to bring out every possible laugh (and more) - they should be extremely proud of their achievement.
It is almost a cliché to say that there were no weak links in the ensemble of 8 actors - but in this instance it is very true. All the actors perform many roles (in one case, Rod Matthew played 4 roles in one scene - constantly running round the stage talking to himself - a comic masterpiece) - and they do so with great aplomb.
The central pairing - the Shrew and her Tamer are excellently played by Kali Peacock and Henry Everett. Their spirit and sensuality is matched by a clear vision that they are well-matched as a couple both physically and emotionally. The sense of collusion in the final scene is an interesting reading of a difficult section and one that allows a modern audience to comprehend more of what is really going on.
Christian Edwards is hilarious as Tranio - well paired with Nigel Lister as Lucentio. Their gift for physical and verbal comedy is shared by Ian Bass and John Brenner. Claire Fraenkel is delightfully ditzy as Bianca - with a definite sting in her tail for the later scenes. I shall long remember the image of her tied to a chair as her favourite teddy bear is torn into pieces.
The retention of the play within a play framework originally intended by Shakespeare worked so well that it is hard to imagine why any company would dispense with this device, which gives such freedom to the actors as well as providing a ideal starting point for the action.
The costumes and set items are well matched to the performances - adding colour and vivacity. And, of course, the garden is as beautiful as ever.
I very much hope to see the companion production of The Importance of Being Earnest by the same actors. It promises to be an excellent summer for OSC - I cannot but urge you to go along and be entertained.