On Thursday 22nd May, I saw a performance of William Shakespeare‘s ‘Taming of the shrew. ‘ It was a matinee performance and took place in the Royal Shakespeare theatre, in Stratford upon Avon. The play is about a father (Baptista) with two daughters, Katherine and Bianca. Bianca is sweet and well behaved, and there are lots of men that want to marry her, but her father won’t let her get married until he can find a husband for Katherine, who is loud, rude and bad tempered.
A man called Petruchio is persuaded to marry Kate because of her money, and proceeds to try and ‘tame’ her. Meanwhile a man who has fallen in love with Bianca. , Lucientio, disguises himself as her teacher so he can get to know her, and they also get married. The story ends happily when Kate, now sweet and obedient, lectures the women on the duty they have to their husbands, and kisses Petruchio. The play was staged on a ‘Proscenium arch’ stage, with a screen at the back that had scenes like rain projected on it when needed.
There were no curtains, and a small floor space between the stage and the stalls. The orchestra were raised to the level of the boxes, stage right that was different from other theatre I have experienced, but I liked it because it meant you weren’t distanced from the stage. There was a slope at the back of the stage, for a lot of the play, and also several doors, some raised higher than others. These were used throughout most of the play to give the impression of the outside street, or the inside of Baptista’s house.
There were also two rails that could be walked along, which were raised for most of the performance. For the start of the play the set remained like this for a while, with moving swirls as the backdrop. The big scene change was for Petruchio’s house, when one rail was lowered, the doors taken off and the backdrop was changed to a thunderstorm, which was effective for showing the conditions they had travelled in.
The other scene changes were less dramatic, like the wedding scene, which just had the doors removed, and a scene where Bianca is out in the garden, which had the doors removed, a swing lowered centre stage and a summer backdrop. None of the set pieces were removed manually, instead being raised or lowered automatically which was great because it didn’t distract from the play. Altogether the set was comparatively simple, but had all the changes they play needed.