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A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
The Tamer Tamed
by Lizzie Loveridge

Let's all wear breeches.
--- Livia
The Tamer Tamed
Jasper Britton as Petruchio
(Photo: Jonathan Dockar-Drysdale)
The Tamer Tamed is a rare theatrical event. Written by Shakespeare's contemporary John Fletcher some twenty years after the original play The Taming of the Shrew, it follows the story of Petruchio's second marriage to Maria, after the death of his first wife Katherine. John Fletcher has had fifty plays ascribed to him and he succeeded Shakespeare as the principal writer for the acting company The King's Men. The Tamer Tamed does answer some of the injustice done to women in Shrew. Gregory Doran has written a fascinating article in the theatre programme detailing Fletcher's life and explaining why Fletcher might have thought it necessary to write an answer to Shakespeare's play. Doran explains that there was some evidence that women were starting to assert themselves. He mentions Swetman's "fiercely misogynistic The Arraignment of lewd froward (stet) and inconstant women" of 1615.

Petruchio (Jasper Britton), widowed after the death of Katherine, remarries Maria (Alexandra Gilbreath). Led on by Bianca (Eve Myles), Maria takes on the task of taming her husband, by barricading herself in her house on their wedding night. She inspires a revolt by all the local women, like the sex strike in Lysistrata. When Petruchio pretends to be ill, she treats him as a plague victim and has him locked up. When Petruchio gives up trying to make his marriage work, he goes travelling and comes back pretending to be dead. Still Maria is not moved. A convoluted sub plot involves Maria's sister Livia (Naomi Frederick) who has to choose whether to marry old Gremio (Christopher Godwin) for money or young Rowland (Daniel Brocklebank) for love.

As a play, The Tamer Tamed is merely a curiosity, rather than a serious competitor to a Shakespearean comedy. Much of it is a light hearted romp but Fletcher's play doesn't have the dramatic spectrum and depth of the original.

Jasper Britton and Alexandra Gilbreath reprise their roles as husband and wife. Petruchio is older and rounder than he was in the first play; it is after all twenty years later. Public opinion initially seems to pity Maria, thought to be a sweet girl getting married to a bullying husband. Gilbreath's fresh faced, curly wigged Maria looks very different from her Katherine and I found her less endearing than the vulnerable Katherine. There is good support from the ensemble cast who enthusiastically conjure up seventeenth century life.

However, as Gegory Doran has interpreted Shakespeare's story in his current production of The Taming of the Shrew, making Petruchio less a gold digger and less cruel, it doesn't really work having The Tamer Tamed as a revenge play for all women on the wrongs inflicted on their sex by Petruchio. Despite Doran's best efforts, The Tamer Tamed is destined to remain in the repertoire of rarely played work but this critic for one is pleased to have had the opportunity to see it.

The Tamer Tamed
Written by John Fletcher
Directed by Gregory Doran

Starring: Jasper Britton, Alexandra Gilbreath
With: Naomi Frederick, David Horovitch, Daniel Brocklebank, Eve Myles, Nicolas Tennant, Paul Chahidi, Christopher Godwin, Rory Kinear, Simon Trinder, John Lightbody, Tom Anderson, Christopher Harvey, Oliver Maltman, David Peart, Keith Osborn, Beth Vyse, Patricia Gannon, Natasha Gordon,
Designer: Stephen Brimson Lewis
Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell
Sound: Martin Slavin
Music: Paul Englishby
Movement: Michael Ashcroft
Music Director: Kevin Waterman
Running time: Two and 35 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0870 890 1110
Booking to 6th March 2004.
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 28th January 2004 performance at the Queen's Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1(Tube: Piccadilly Circus)
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