Review: Outdoor Shakespeare at Reading SchoolBy Caroline Cook
July 03, 2012
Few things are more English than rain and Shakespeare and GB Theatre had them both at Reading School last night.
The touring company has arrived in the grounds of the school to perform a Shakespeare sandwich of The Taming of the Shrew and The Tempest.
Although the run kicked off with the Shrew last night, with the rain lashing down and a rather soggy company of actors, anyone passing by could easily have mistaken it for the water play.
But putting the very English obsession with the weather to one side, what of the play?
GB Theatre has been producing open air theatre for just two years, which is hard to believe when you experience the dynamic and slick nature of their performances.
The Taming of the Shrew is undoubtedly one of Shakespeare's funniest plays and director Jenny Stephens has added a few subtle touches to bring out the humour, making Shakespeare's words accessible to any audience.
The play follows Katherine and Bianca, the former a headstrong shrew and the later, a young woman desired by most of the suitors in Italy.
Lucia McAnespie was wonderfully fierce as Katherine, storming across the stage with bags of attitude and the occasional wry glance at the audience.
The audience are involved from the off, sharing mischievous glances with the actors, as they are let in on the prank played on befuddled drunk Christopher Sly (Peter Dineen) who is tricked into believing he is a lord.
Taking a seat at the front of the audience with his supposed beau (who is actually the hilarious Daniel Dingsdale in drag), the 'lord' watches the play with the audience, pitching in every now and again with a drunken slur.
The trio of suitors, all vying for Bianca's affections, are delightfully comic on stage, particularly Hortensio, played like a boy straight out of Eton, by the brilliant Tom Kay.
Pouting his way around the stage Hortensio undoubtedly got the biggest laughs, bring Shakespeare to the modern age with a Jack Whitehall-esque brand of posh comedy.
Although the sodden stage led to a few slips GB Theatre very much lived up to the 'show must go on' mantra and the actors powered through, recovering with flair when they slid across the tiered platforms.
Brollies are not allowed, understandably enough as we all want to be able to see the stage, so it's worth taking a hooded jacket to keep dry.
Our wet summer this year may not be ideal for outdoor theatre but of course Shakespeare's works were written to be performed at open topped theatres like The Globe, so perhaps it is adding an extra - albeit rather damp - authenticity to the experience.
The audience may have left a little soggy but with such an entertaining production no one really minded.
And with The Tempest arriving in the grounds tonight a splash of rain could not be more appropriate.
- The Tempest is on tonight at 7pm. The Taming of the Shrew will be performed again on Wednesday at 7pm. Tickets are £17 for adults and £8 for under-16s and OAPs. Warm clothing is advised. Visit www.gbtheatrecompany.com.