Take your seats in the spacious courtyard of the Oxford Castle – there are no bad seats. Enter the first actors, Laurentio and his servant, Tranio, followed by a saucy Bianca singing an Italian song to her would-be lovers before her shrewish sister enters and the scene is set for The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare’s most politically incorrect play, which is being performed by the Troika Theatre Company at Oxford Castle for the next two weeks.
The wide courtyard gives the actors plenty of space to move but can swallow some of the words: however the actors on the whole overcame this. Andrew Tickell was a wonderfully camp Hortensio; Ashley Harvey a suitably over-the-top Tranio, making the best of the chance to play the lord. His comic timing was excellent. Some of the other actors seemed less secure in their parts and I did not see the point of the constant switching of the plants and flowers: they did not make the setting any clearer and could just as easily have been left on stage. The scenery is minimal, but then, no more is required – the magnificent backdrop of the castle is setting enough.
The interplay between Katharina and Petruchio is the backbone of this play and Monica Nash and Adam Potterton carry this off with great aplomb. Katharina is shrewish, yes, but she comes across as an intelligent though thwarted woman. Petruchio comes looking for a rich wife and is happy to take on Katharina for the sake of the money, but he seems to relish the prospect of taming this shrew when he realises what personality she has. Right to the end, even delivering her last speech, she has presence and a sort of dignity.
So, back to political incorrectness. Troika Theatre Company perform this play in modern dress; why then, no acknowledgement of the fact that Katharina’s words would not be acceptable nowadays. Shouldn’t Katharina at least get the last laugh? In this production, the kiss (“Kiss me Kate”) makes Petruchio and Katharina realise that actually they do love each other and they go off happily into the night. Well, go yourselves and see what you think.