Theatre Royal Bath

Until Saturday, March 31

IT is with good reason that many of Shakespeare’s plays are judiciously edited for modern audiences.

What usually gets cut is the cabaret element, the gratuitous knockabout stuff that was Shakespeare playing to the gallery and which was calculated for a very different kind of audience in different times.

However, in this production, Royal Shakespeare Company director Lucy Bailey has seen fit to include The Induction from the original script, a device which makes The Shrew a play within a play. The secondary tale of drunken tinker Christopher Sly (Nick Holder), who is duped into thinking he is a lord and is then practically the sole audience for the main drama, is not only an irritating distraction it also seems to be an excuse for bawdiness and ribaldry that was frankly just smutty.

It’s a very busy production. There is sometimes far too much going on to aid concentration and the diction falls short of what one expects of the RSC. But it could be that the huge sloping mattress which covers the stage dampened the acoustic.

There are some outstanding performances, not least from Huss Garbiya and Simon Gregor as two of the servants. They were slick, athletic and very funny.

There is excellent chemistry between the two main protagonists, David Caves as Petruchio and Lisa Dillon as Katherine. Their performances are spirited and focussed and utterly absorbing in the second half of the play.

Their final reconciliation following Katherine’s key speech on wifely duty – should that contain a little more irony? – is more moving than some of what had gone before would have led one to expect.

It’s a challenging production, but don’t take my word for it – see for yourself.