The Taming of the Shrew

Aug 14 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆    Uneven updating

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 186): Mon 12– Sat 17 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Arkle’s take on The Taming of the Shrew is a largely successful attempt to make relevant one of Shakespeare’s plays that is most troubling to modern audiences.

The tale of the ‘shrewish’ Kate, who must be married before her younger sister Bianca’s many suitors have any prospect of winning her hand, is often a source of worry for its treatment of women. Any attempts to update the play or undermine its apparent message – whether you consider it to be serious or satirical – run the risk of muddying the waters further.

A scene from The Taming of the Shrew. Pic: Arkle

Director David Grimes has moved the setting to the 1950s, but this does not have a huge effect on things, and it is a matter of opinion whether you think what he has done to the ending makes the play more palatable or just even more silly. There is a pace and flow to the production, however, with careful cutting and combining of characters, that means it flies along.

The understandable desire for speed does mean that it is a struggle to keep up at times. Some of the dialogue is delivered so fast that it becomes incidental. A stress on the comedic elements does also lead to some overplaying and trying too hard for laughs.

When the playing is most relaxed it is at its most effective. There is a flow to the exchanges between Kate (the impressive Sara-Jane McGeachy) and her husband Petruchio (an expansive Alastair Lawless); this also occurs when Mark Anderson (Kate’s father Baptista) is on stage, as he has an enviable command of Shakespeare’s rhythms.

energetic yet subtle

Sinead Gray (Bianca) and Helen E. Nix (Grumia) both have a convincing presence about them. The combination of Petruchio’s servant Grumio with the widow wooed by Hortensio is interesting, as is the recasting of Lucentio’s servant Tranio as the female Annia. Chess Carnell’s Annia is an energetic yet subtle performance that adds to the texture of the play.

Isaac Allen’s Lucentio is trying just too hard for impact, and overdoes the comic side. The same is true of Alistair Wales as Hortensio and – to a lesser extent – Dug Campbell as Gremio, their rival for Bianca’s hand. It is much better to relax and let the comedy come naturally, as is shown by Rob Mackean’s cameo as Vincentio, which is much more effective.

The cuts, combinations and other directorial decisions are all done in an effort to make the play more accessible, and it largely works. If not everything comes off, there is a coherence to the production which makes for a pleasing whole.

Running time 1 hour 30 minutes (no interval)
The Royal Scots Club, 29-33 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE (Venue 241)
Monday 12 – Saturday 17 August 2019
Daily at 8.30pm
Tickets and details:

Arkle website:

The cast of Arkle’s The Taming of the Shrew. Pic: Arkle


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