This was a perfect summer Sunday evening’s entertainment – an outdoor performance of “The Taming of the Shrew” in the grounds of Cardigan Castle. Being one of the most miserable, wet Augusts for a long time, we prepared ourselves for the inevitable drop in temperature that would follow a 6.30pm start – folding canvas chairs each with a large fishing umbrella slid down inside the carry cover, winter padded jacket and plastic-backed picnic blanket to cover the knees. We didn’t forget the provisions bag, of course, with bottle of wine, two wine glasses, munchies and serviettes. But, it turned out to be a bright sunny day that did not get chilly until around 8.00pm so definitely a bonus.
It was a great performance by Illyria, award-winning actors that brought the whole thing to life. Each actor played several roles in the ‘play within a play within a play’ as Katherine’s new husband demonstrates that there might be a more effective way to deal with the very real restrictions placed on women in the 1590s, though this “taming” might only need to be for public appearances!
There were lots of quick costume and voice changes, some more successful than others, and well-timed comic action. The tall, skinny chap played the shrew Katherine brilliantly, being the seething angry sister that everyone is scared of. Just before the end of the 20 minute interval, Katherine stood in front of the stage, swinging a hammer threateningly, then thumped a gong and bellowed “3 minutes!”
Even though they did not necessarily know what was being said, the audience loved the whole three-hour performance, including the children. There was some interesting discussion in the programme on the fact that Katherine is finally only “playing” at being the dutiful wife. If you see Illyria touring near you, they are absolutely worth seeing – go prepared for the evening chill though – and if it is in a setting like the newly-restored Cardigan Castle, then even better. Overall, it was slick, professional entertainment.