Taming of the Shrew

Friday 13th Saturday 14th June 2003 (3 performances)
Pocklington Arts Centre

Tuesday 17th – Saturday 21st June 2003 (6 perfomances)
Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Charles Hutchinson in the The Yorkshire Evening Press wrote:

OUT with the old, in with the new. York Shakespeare Project has brushed away the cobwebs of its rickety start with Richard III last autumn to freshen up cast and artistic policy for the second production of its ongoing programme to perform all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays.

Director Paul Toy has shaken up Shakespeare without damaging the goods. Believing that the “welcome gains of feminism seem to have left The Taming Of The Shrew as less of a comedy, more of a problem play” he has reversed the usual gender casting of the lovers and their servants. “There is now no pretence that what you see is `real’,” he says. “Hopefully, the play can be seen as less of a treatise and more of a game”.

What’s more, it is a game played within the slumbering, dreaming, drunken head of Christopher Sly (Lee Maloney), who arrives with his bag of beer cans and disruptive mobile phone. On to a plain stage come the 17th century Players and their pageant waggons to enact the play within the play, with the added element of the new twists in the casting.

The male-female role swap is not as radical as it may first seem. After all, all stage parts used to be played by men or boys; The Globe in London is soon to open an all-female version of The Shrew with York actress Janet McTeer as Petruchio; and Shakespeare’s comedies are already suffused with characters taking on disguises by swapping gender or social status.

Indeed, in The Shrew itself, the page Bartholomew is dressed up as a woman, on this occasion with the willowy James Tyler being fitted out in a little black number and a peroxide wig.

Ali Borthwick, a tall Glaswegian with a pageboy haircut, plays Petruchio in strapping manner opposite John Sharpe’s Katherina with his/her pale commedia dell’arte face and rouge lips. No longer “real”, the taming technique of starvation and sleep deprivation now loses its nasty sting – ironic in this age of similar techniques being used by the American government.

However, the comedy acquires a newly pantomimic quality while emphasising the deeper theme of the needs of individual freedom versus the demands of social conformity.

Borthwick plays humorously on her considerable size; the skirt-hitching, hand-twitching Sharpe hints at Les Dawson or Dick Emery; madrigals add still more to the theatricality, and the pleasing number of young performers brings a vibrancy to the game.

See also: The British Theatre Guide review by Peter Lathan.


Christopher Sly Lee Maloney
The Hostess Val Parker
A Lord Tim Holman
Bartholomew James Tyler
Lord’s Retainers Robert Cummings, Alan Lyons, Harold Mozley,
Players Ali Borthwick, Kit Bird, Lindsay Whitwell
Baptista Minola Alan Reed
Katherina John Sharpe
Bianca David Orme
Petruchio Ali Borthwick
Grumio Lindsay Whitwell
Curtis Barbara Miller
A Tailor Helen Mitchell
A Haberdasher Breanne Rodgers
Gremio Samuel Valentine
Hortensio Gillian Bayes
Lucentio Hannah de Haan
Tranio Chloe Lewis
Biondello Fiona Mozley
Vincentio Harold Mozley
A Merchant of Mantua Robert Cummings
A Widow Kit Bird
Townspeople, Officers, Servants to Baptista, Petruchio, Lucentio and Hortensio Gina Kirkham, Val Parker, Breanne Rodgers
Singers Andy Chase, Richard Lane, Anna Kesteven, Barbara Miller, Hannah Quinn

Production and Backstage

Director Paul Toy
Producer Kit Bird
Stage Manager Debbie Bone
Deputy Stage Manager Ray Baggaley
Assistant Stage Managers Malcolm Law, Jeremy Muldowney, Adrian Dale
Musical Director Hannah Quinn
Costume Designer Beverley Chapman
Wardrobe Mistresses Beverley Chapman, Liz Huchinson, Judith Ireland
Costume Makers Jennie Boyer, Margaret Cummings, Mary-Ann Dearlove, Liz Hutchinson, Judith Ireland, Gina Kirkham, Linda Maloney, Helen Orme, Val Parker, Heather Partridge, Muriel Pickett, Sheila Shouksmith
Set Designers Paul Toy, Lee Maloney
Set Builders Alan Dickens, Malcolm Law, Lee Maloney
Set Painting Beverley Chapman, Monica Nelson
Cast Liaison Officer Barbara Miller
Lighting Jeremy Dean
Sound Jamie Searle
Props Jeremy Muldowney, Monica Nelson
Make-up Helen Mitchell
Tickets Sue Whitaker, Anne Walker
Front of House Jenny Aitken, Mike Bennett, Ian Bithell, Caroline Mozley Kat Dale, David Hartshorn, Judith Ireland, Linda Maloney, Amy Parker, Justine Schneider, Jenny Wykes
Publicity and Marketing Alan Lyons
Photography James Webster
Graphic Artist Mike Shaw