Review: The Taming of the Shrew

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Ripley Castle, near Harrogate

Back for an eighth season at Ripley Castle, open air theatre company Sprite this year romps through its lush walled gardens and woodland groves with an enthralling production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew.

Directed by Charlotte Bennett, and with a hugely talented and likeable cast stylishly attired in a 1940s’ wardrobe of double-breasted flannel suits, fitted silk dresses and land girl headscarves, this is a Shrew that strikes a palatable balance between traditional slapstick and a more thoughtful, contemporary commentary.

There’s no denying that this is one of Shakespeare’s more challenging comedies for a modern audience, kicking off with a hefty helping of brawling, cuffing, smacking and screaming as we are introduced to Katherine the cursed, the elder sister who must be married off before the younger, fair Bianca, can be auctioned to one of her suitors.

Then there’s the inescapable cruelty as Petruchio proceeds to tame Kate through starvation and sleep deprivation until she finally submits to his will. The final scene is simple and surprisingly touching, and the audience is left in little doubt that this is a meeting and matching of true equals.

Even so, the questions and expressions of disbelief from my teenage son and daughter on the way home demonstrated that this is a romantic comedy that continues to provoke much debate about love, relationships and sexual politics – just as it should do.

To July 8.