This OUDS production plays it straight down the line, a Shakespearian play of its time, milking every line for its laughs. It is a very funny, very witty play and the cast go at it with great gusto and huge enthusiasm, sweeping the audience along with them. For all the sub-plots, and there are several, it is Katherine and Petruchio who must carry the day - and carry the day they do, the shrewish Ed Pearce switching from wildcat fury to miserable bewilderment, while Jacob Taee weaves his cruel charm. You should dislike him – but you don’t.
But this isn’t just a duo with supporting cast: every actor has personality plus. The meek Bianca (Roseanna Frascona) is actually quite feisty; all the servants, especially Grumio (Chris Greenwood) have us practically rolling in the aisles at times. Everyone’s comic timing is perfect. They can all sing, too, which they do every now and then – duets, ensembles. It’s wonderful.
Wonderful too, is the setting of the President’s Garden at Magdalen College. This production wisely does not try to build a set: the garden is the set and a few trunks are moved around the stage as required, with arched doors through walls acting as wings. The disadvantage of the garden, however, when the seats are not raked, is that action on the ground is not visible to the back rows, something which occurred not infrequently.
Productions of Shakespeare’s plays, especially outdoor ones, understandably cut out scenes to make the play shorter. In this production, Shakespeare’s original play outside the play is omitted, which is fine, but why then emphasise it in the programme? I do also find it strange to see a production of the Shrew today in which Katherine accepts her subservient status without a murmur. There is no darker side.
This production does not hint (except bawdily) or comment: it is a lively comedy, finely performed, and a great evening out.