Gale Edwards' production of The Taming of the Shrew (Royal Shakespeare Company, Barbican) is rollicking, farcical fun. Josie Lawrence's Katharina and Michael Siberry's Petruchio are an attractive pair, each with their unkempt Titian locks and matching angry passion.
They are naturally attracted to each other which brings plenty of opportunities for rumbustious exchanges and physical romps. Mark Lockyer's Tranio makes a hilarious stage-managing teddyboy (costume styles are irritatingly muddled) when he exchanges roles with his love-struck master Lucentio (Dermot Kerrigan).
The production's weakness is in its lack of a clear psychological line in Katharine's character. Sometimes Ms Lawrence seems to be viewing events with an ironic eye, sometimes to be positively enjoying the taming process as a game. There are the expected hints that she has been starved of love by a father besotted with his overtly sweet (here manipulative and spoilt) younger daughter Bianca (played with gusto by Tilly Blackwood), but the parts do not quite add up to a believable whole. Siberry is swashbuckling and not unsympathetic, but the humiliation of his bride still leaves a nasty taste whatever gloss the production puts on it. Here Edwards has Siberry as Sly, the drunk whose dream provides the main plot, wake to acknowledge his childlike dependence on a wife who at first appears only to nag. The tampering with Shakespeare to please modern sensibilities does not convince.
Running time: 3 hours. Tickets: 0171 638 8891