Ad Lib Theatre brought a perfect period comedy to Northwood House with their genuinely hilarious rendition of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, with its challenging problematic elements of the plot.

Director Maureen Sullivan ably re-contextualized the play with a witty adaptation, giving Kate agency as a willing fellow conman to Petruchio, the superb cast carrying it off with aplomb. Petruchio and Kate were ably portrayed by Simon Lynch and Emily Scotcher, drawing on their long working relationship to portray very calculating intelligent individuals looking to escape these fools, and milk them for every penny.

The rest of the cast had great moments to shine: Patrick Barry played put-upon Grumio with all the trademark charm you’d expect, his co-swordsman Ed Nash had some wonderful comic moments as Lucentio’s stand-in father.

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Bryony Bishop really fleshed out Bianca with a great undercurrent of spitefulness towards Kate. Phillip Barker had the audience laughing whether he was wearing a funny hat or sneaking Bianca behind a curtain.

Karl Whitmore played Gremio about as good as you can hope to see. His performance was animated and nuanced. Anita Davies delivered Biondella with West Country accent and comedy a-plenty. Lynne Gregory-Phillips ably conveyed that she was trying to get these madcap lot to co-operate! John Abraham’s very funny Hortensio had one of the best worst Italian accents I’d heard. Andrew Jenner and Libby Pike played characters of every shade of camp and colourful and Brian Curtis had quiet gravitas as Vincentio.

I think however my biggest plaudits go to the younger members of the cast. Millie Attrill had some great asides, Rafe Hodge Thomas’s Tranio was witty, more then holding his own against the established company members, and Ellen Careless got the funniest moment of the night when she clouted Petruchio with a wine goblet!

All in all, this company is spoilt for talent of all ages, I for one can’t wait to see what they come up with next. When this lot are on stage, the play really is the thing!

Report by Olly Fry

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