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The Taming of the Shrew and The Tempest

Reviews - 2012 shows


Jo Rothery, Chichester Observer reviews The Taming of the Shrew

The Collector Earl’s Garden at Arundel castle formed the perfect historic backdrop for an absolutely faultless and gripping performance, the company having decided to treat one of the Bard’s favourite comedies in traditional style.

The production flowed effortlessly, superbly acted throughout and with the humorous elements delivered with immaculate timing for maximum effect. And while the superb open-air setting added to the atmosphere, keeping the audience enthralled from start to finish, the voices were crystal clear and not a word was lost.

It’s difficult to pick out any individual performances among a cast where everyone played their part to perfection, but company manager David Davies was a superb Petuchio, as was Lucia McAnespie as Katherine, an absolute delight as the Shrew.

Equally impressive were Tom Kay as Hortensio and Peter Dineen as the hilarious Christopher Sly, while Daniel Dingsdale displayed splendid comic timing.

Well done, GB Theatre Company for bringing Shakespeare to life for a very appreciative audience. It was good to see so many youngsters there, all realising how great a playwright the Bard was and how his work remains as enjoyable as ever.


Nick Le Mesurier, Leamington Courier reviews The Tempest:

"Theatrical delight is marvelous to behold"

As the shadows grew and the eerie cries of peacocks echoed through the trees, Caliban's magical isle came to life in an evening of pure theatrical delight. The GB Theatre Company specialises in outdoor theatre productions in splendid ancestral settings. But one should not see them and their work only as summer spectacles. They are worthy of merit on artistic grounds alone.

So let me begin with the cast. Some actors have the power to draw the audience to them, no matter what they do. Sarah Middleton as Miranda is one such. Tom Kay's muscular and linguistic contortions evoked the power and humiliation of the poor monster. Daniel Dingsdale played the flighty spirit with fierce energy; Dermot Canavan gave a virtuoso performance as the drunken Stephano; and Gwilym Lloyd as the wronged magician was dignity incarnate.

The natural environment could have been tailor made for the show, and the cast made free and imaginative use of it. But in Shakespeare it is how the language is treated and the way every aspect of the performance is brought to bear on it. This company understood that fact and succeeded brilliantly without the use of gimmicks.

Let us hope the GB Theatre Company will play again here, for longer and often, for they deliver the spirit of Shakespeare simply and directly in ways that are marvelous to behold.


James Holden, DigYorkshire reviews The Tempest:

This play sometimes has a reputation for being ethereal, fantastical and even whimsical. This was not the case in this particular production, directed by Jack Shepherd – a man probably best known for his screen role as Wycliffe.

Shepherd and his actors presented a powerfully physical Shakespeare. Take for instance, the most airy of characters – Ariel himself. In his performance of this role, Daniel Dingsdale is constantly up on his toes, pulled this way and that as though by Prospero’s unseen magic. He was obsequious at times and downright menacing at others, particularly when enchanting the lords of Naples and Milan.

It was, though, Tom Kay’s muscular presentation of Caliban that held the eye and the imagination. The actor clambered over the Sheffield ground, arching, crawling and bounding in a manner that captured the strangeness of this character. By the end, Kay’s movements had begun to seem almost dancerly in their execution. The distortion of his voice also contributed to the otherworldliness without ever causing the dialogue to become unintelligible.

The popular comic scene when first Trinculo (played by Peter Dineen) and then a drunken Stephano (Dermot Canavan) come across Caliban was performed expertly by all concerned. Again, the effect was produced by the physicality of the comedy as much as anything – legs wobbled, staggered and wrapped themselves around each other.

Gwilym Lloyd’s Prospero conveyed the lost and lonely nobility of the wronged Duke in exile, his dangerous power suggested by the wielding of his magician’s staff. And, at the end, Lloyd also transmitted something of the role’s human frailty.

[ Full review ]


Rosa Mcmahon, EDP reviews The Taming of the Shrew:

Shakespeare’s most outrageous, and controversial comedy was dynamic, funny and engaging. Directed by Jenny Stephens, director of BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, the actors and the historic backdrop had the audience bewitched and laughing all the way through.

The stage hosts the story of two wealthy, but very different, sisters – who must wed. The wet and meek Bianca, played perfectly by the small and sweet Sarah Middleton, is the modest and comparatively shy sister who has a wealth of choice for suitors.

But Katherina, played by Lucia McAnespie, is her shrewish and ungovernable sister with fewer men to choose from. Just Petruchio, played by David Davies – a strong-willed and maddening man who is able to charm, or rather bully, Katherina into loving him.

Shakespeare’s script is executed perfectly with the erratic Katherina and Petruchio outwitting each other.

Tom Kay, the pompous Hortensio Padua, who wishes to marry Bianca, was certainly a highlight of the performance. His flamboyant and almost camp take on Hortensio was both funny and hugely watchable.

[ Full review ]


Natalie Burns, Guide2Bristol reviews The Tempest:

"Theirs was the best production I have seen by a modern Shakespeare company..."

The GB Theatre Company breathed new life into the well-known tale of mirth, magic, revenge, love and forgiveness, and theirs was a performance that will please both seasoned Shakespeare lovers and those new to the play. With traditional costume and language, their wonderfully professional performances made The Tempest accessible to all.

The play tells the story of Prospero and his daughter Miranda (Sarah Middleton) washed up on, and now ruling a remote and distant isle with the help of magical sprite Ariel (Daniel Dingsdale). Prospero raises a storm, The Tempest, to shipwreck King Alonso (Christopher Dingli) and his enemies. However, when Miranda falls in love with King Alonso’s son Ferdinand (Simon Yadoo) Prospero finally forgives them and ends his magical reign, breaking his staff and with it the spell, to return to rule Milan.

The staging of the play was beautiful and well executed; Ashton Court is the perfect setting for some summer Shakespearian theatre, but in addition the performers used the space brilliantly. Ariel makes his mischief hiding and appearing out of the hedges around the stage and enchanting notes from Miranda’s flute drift in from unseen corners of the beautiful gardens. The props were few and wonderfully used to great imaginative affect, and all the performances without exception were brilliant.

Gwilym Lloyd’s Prospero and Tom Kay’s Caliban were perfect and all the performers were very well cast. They were energetic but the characters never overplayed. The lighting, the setting, the summers evening, the passion of the players and the beautiful use of scenery made the production a really enjoyable experience.

The GB Theatre Company’s performance was, in this case, more comedy than tragedy, and Caliban is more mischievous rogue than vicious savage, but their telling works brilliantly without detracting from the magic and imagination of the story.

All the actors brought a real electricity and life to their performances and added enough of a modern twist to make the tale translate to a modern audience without losing any of the wit or nuance of the original language. Their movement and timing also brought out the buoyancy and humour of the characters without being over-the-top, which can be a tricky feat at an open-air performance.

Dermot Canavan played a very convincing drunken Stephano and brought great comedy to the performance especially in his scenes with the untamed Caliban.

Overall, the GB Theatre Company brought enough energy and understated style to the performance to make it appealing even to those who are unfamiliar with Shakespeare, and the whole performance, setting, costume and timing were wonderful.

Theirs was the best production I have seen by a modern Shakespeare company, and the whole performance was a real treat. A great new energy brought to a familiar tale. I hope they can hold The Tempest up through the wily British weather for the rest of their run!

[ Full review ]


The Bristol Post review of The Taming of the Shrew:

Open air theatre always adds an extra bit of charm to a Shakespeare performance, and the setting worked wonders here. Padua was set within the glorious grounds of the Ashton Court Estate, which, despite the torrential rain, made for a great setting and added to the atmosphere of the production.

The actors were all fantastic – incredibly eloquent and dynamic – darting around the boggy stage set with bounds of energy and purpose.

The physicality between the shrewish and savage Kate, played beautifully by Lucia McAnespie and the drunken rogue Petruchio, played outstandingly by David Davies, was excellent throughout and provided moments of heightened comic genius.

Tom Kay was great as the pompous and wealth-seeking Hortensio and made good use of his puffed pantalons, which he tugged outward at all the right moments, creating a rumble of warming and much needed laughter across the soaked audience.

This was a great performance and the GB Theatre Company are clearly a group to watch over the coming years. Hats off to the entire cast, who really embodied the slogan "The show must go on" and we are all incredibly grateful that it did.

[ Full review ]


Gordon Richardson, Exeter Express & Echo reviews The Tempest:

Weather did not stop a real castle treat

"Enter mariners wet", goes the stage direction, and it looked for a while as if everyone else might be in for a soaking too as actors and audience alike braved the English summer for this outdoor performance of The Tempest. But though the clouds threatened, they were merciful.

And GB Theatre Company's quality ensemble - who had also performed The Taming of the Shrew at Exeter Castle earlier in the week - ensured a treat for those who turned out to see Shakespeare's tale set on an enchanted island.

Jack Shepherd's absorbing production did not shy away from some of the darker aspects of Prospero's use of magic to compel Caliban and Ariel to do his bidding as he seizes his opportunity to regain the dukedom of Milan from his usurping brother Antonio, before realising that "The rarer action is in the virtue than in vengeance".

The complex relationships between Prospero (Gwilym Lloyd) and his spirit servant Ariel and the half-man, half-beast Caliban came to the fore through captivating performances from Daniel Dingsdale and Tom Kay respectively, both relying on movement rather than make-up or costume to capture the not-quite-human nature of their characters.

Other outstanding performances came from Lennox Greaves as Gonzalo and the elfin Sarah Middleton as Miranda.

All in all, the cast succeeded in drawing out the comedy in the drunken exploits of Trinculo and Stephano and the pathos of the reunion and reconciliation in the closing scenes.

GB Theatre Company plans to return to Exeter next summer with The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night's Dream, and on this evidence they will be well worth looking out for.


See also 2011 Reviews and 2010 Reviews