Taming of the Shrew is purportedly one of Shakespeare's comedies. But for a modern sensibility, it's hard to find that many laughs in this misogynistic play - a tale of a woman subdued to her husband through, essentially, mental and physical abuse, it's hard to make it fit well in today's equality-driven world. It's a difficult one.
Perhaps this is why director Robin Norton-Hale has gone for a sliced-down version of the play, which strips out much of the nasty misogyny and reinterprets the Katherine-Petruchio relationship as a much more equally sarcastic, sexual games-driven pairing.
There are moments of comic genius - the use of 'anon' to end a phone call, for instance - and the sexual chemistry between Simon Darwen's Petruchio and Elexi Walker's Katherine crackles throughout. Darwen's Petruchio is fabulous - selfish and sexy, while his line-readings are the stuff dreams are made of. Walker's attempts to marry a modern, teeth-sucking 20-something with Shakespeare's character doesn't work well at the start, but she grows into it as time goes by, imbuing her Katherine with a pleasingly sparky sultriness.
Will Featherstone, recently of Shakespeare's Globe, and Simon Ginty do nice comic work as switched suitors Tranio and Lucentio, while Simone James' Bianca is sultry and sweet, but cutting out so much of the text inevitably makes this adaptation confused - some scenes make little sense or appear to have happened too quickly. It's a shame, because there are some great and admirable ideas in this production - but taking out the heart of this very difficult play and irrevocably changing the nature of the relationship between Katherine and Petruchio is somewhat of an error.