REVIEW: The Taming of the Shrew, South Street Park Amphitheatre

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THE gamble that is open air theatre in England just about beat the odds on an opening night to mark the first professional production at the South Street Amphitheatre in Sheffield.

But it was a close run thing. A mighty rainstorm swept over the city centre half an hour into the performance and there were 11 heroes on stage who carried on regardless. There were also 100 or so members of the audience who were determined to stick it out. Only one woman left. And she missed a treat as the storm abated and the sun began to shine.

The amphitheatre, which is cut into the hill above the railway station has a certain novelty value. It was the smell of the diesel and the roar of the tram that set the scene for Shakespeare’s hilarious gender comedy. In these sensitive times the story of a wild woman tamed into submission by her lord and master sits uneasily, but it is best just to sit back and enjoy the language and the silliness.

To the backdrop of the best panoramic view in the city, director Jenny Stephens gives us an unadulterated version of the play in traditional costume and manner.

Though the cast had to strain their voices on opening night, they are a true ensemble, blending together with great spirit and panache.

David Davies’ Petruchio had the dynamism of a man with a mission, and Lucia McAnespi’s Katherine showed the schizophrenic tensions with just a hint that her submission was not quite what it seemed.

Bianca’s suitors showed the contrast of their personalities with gusto, though the mannered performance of Tom Kay’s Hortensio was played with a walk that looked as if his trousers were soaked. Actually they probably were.

The good citizens of Park Hill, who passed by on the adjoining public footpath looked somewhat bemused but that all added to the surrealism as trains roared out of the station. A Virgin Voyager set off to the South during the final chorus. Perhaps it was going via Stratford.

Taming continues tonight (Friday) and then it’s The Tempest tomorrow. By putting Shakespeare on the road, they deserve your support.