The Taming of the Shrew

Whilst not the best production of Shakespeare Cambridge has to offer, ABI BENNETT recommends this as a May Week afternoon well spent.

Cambridge Ed Ayers Laura Waldren Lewis Owen May Week Queen's College Shakespeare The Taming of the Shrew

Cloister Court, Queens’ College, 4pm Wednesday 19th – Friday 21st June, 2pm Saturday 22nd June, £6/5

Sunning yourself on a blanket in a pretty college is as good a way as any to spend May Week. So a May Week show doesn’t have to be spectacularly good. It just has to be passably funny and good enough not to detract from the lovely surroundings. Luckily, BATS’s production of Taming of the Shrew delivered a beautiful setting in spades, and the play itself wasn’t too bad either.

The setting in Queens’ Cloister Court, with generous blanket provision, suitably bohemian props, and scattered Chinese lanterns (no doubt left over from the May Ball), was fabulous. The production followed suit: aesthetically pleasing, funny in moments, and appropriately light-hearted for May Week.

On the whole, the acting was perfectly adequate. Lewis Owen brought real energy and flair to his portrayal of Petruchio, and Laura Waldren’s Katherina was nicely feisty. The two could have delivered more psychologically convincing performances – the thorny issue of motivation behind Katherina’s seeming final submission appeared to have been unconsidered – but the audience weren’t looking for interesting psychological studies, they just wanted the story.

Some of the more minor parts suffered from poor acting. Stilted, uncomprehending delivery, combined with fluffed lines and a lack of projection, made some scenes err on the side of painful.

The production as a whole could have benefited from more care. Lines were poor, with Ed Ayers’s surreptitious attempt to read his lines from inside his hat prompting undesired laughs from the audience. Petruchio persistently referred to Baptista Minola as ‘father’ rather than ‘mother’. It was flabby in places, with scenes dragging where the motivation behind the lines hadn’t been fully understood.

If you’re a Shakespeare purist you might want to stay away; the production is not of the highest quality compared to the Shakespeare usually on offer in Cambridge. But, if the sun’s out, you could do a lot worse with a May Week afternoon than heading over to Queens’ to catch this.