Arundel Festival’s Shakespeare season – The Taming of the Shrew

Arundel Festival’s Shakespeare season was kick-started on August 23 by the GB Theatre Company – now a much-loved annual visitor to the town.

Armed with comedy and drama in abundance the cast returned to Arundel with their traditional yet highly memorable performances of The Taming of the Shrew and The Tempest. It seemed as though audiences were in for a treat…

With clear skies and summer temperatures, the evening began promisingly for the first of three performances by the GB Theatre Company.

Using a framing technique, the company conveyed Shakespeare’s tale The Taming of the Shrew within their own, introducing the audience to Christopher Sly, a drunken tinker whom is tricked into believing he is Lord of the house.

Believing the play is intended as a treat for him, the audience find themselves helplessly embroiled into the trickery as Christopher Sly (Peter Dineen) and his apparent wife (Daniel Dingsdale) take up the empty seats in the front row.

Then, Shakespeare is brought to life.

Directed by Jenny Stevens The Taming of the Shrew is about the two daughters of Baptista (Lennox Greaves), the young and fair Bianca (Sarah Middleton) and her feisty, shrewish older sister Katherine (Lucia McAnespie).

Overcome with admirers for his youngest, Baptista insists that Bianca cannot wed until his older daughter is married.

Plots and schemes arise from Bianca’s many admirers – Gremio (Gwilym Lloyd), Hortensio (Tom Kay) and Lucentio (Christopher Dingli) until the loud, drunken rogue Petruchio comes forth and takes on the challenge of overcoming Katherine’s fearsome personality.

But can he tame the violent temper of his chosen love, and who will Bianca chose out of the many admirers who chase her? Henceforth unfolds a comedic tale of love, trickery and loving duty as the audience are shown who really ends up taming who.

Performed in the Collector Earl’s Garden at Arundel Castle, the setting is undoubtedly a magnificent one, with flowers in full summer bloom surrounding the audience.

As dusk fell, lights brightened and thanks to the professional consideration of both sound and lighting, no one in the audience missed out on either the witty dialogue or the conveyance of it.

One might argue that the frame tale of Christopher Sly was slightly unnecessary, perhaps not drawing to a close as finitely as some might have wished, however it provided an abundance of humour early on as well as encouraging some audience interaction.

As ever, some actors most certainly shined. Simon Yadoo who played the parts of both Grumio and Pedant, was hilarious with his portrayal of the lovable oafish characters – it’s no wonder he was nominated for Best Actor in the Van D’Or Awards at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

He even added some unscripted humour when he mentioned in an aside ‘this would look so much better if we had the right prop working’ – referring to the imaginary fire he was supposed to be warming himself up on. Certainly a real fire would have been welcome; despite the Summer season temperatures dropped as suddenly as darkness did.

But the two sisters played by Sarah Middleton (Bianca) and Lucia McAnespie (Katherine) are also worth an individual mention – they perfectly complemented the sisters’ apparently opposite personalities and left the audience feeling that they weren’t the only ones enjoying the play.

As the weather held out for the first performance of the festival, there was a general buzz amongst the audience that suggested they were eager to experience more, excitedly awaiting the company’s next performance of The Tempest, the following evening.

Reviewed by Stephanie Allen.