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The Taming of the Shrew (1978)

The Taming of the Shrew

A Royal Shakespeare Company production of Shakespeare's play, performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon (opened 4 May 1978).

Performance length: 3 hours (including interval)


The Taming of the Shrew  image #0The Taming of the Shrew  image #1The Taming of the Shrew  image #3

The first photo shows various characters, including Katharina (played by Paola Dionisotti, in the white dress) and Bianca (Zoe Wanamaker, in the red dress).  The second also shows Katharina and Bianca in the same scene.  The third shows Hortensio (David Lyon), Bianca, and x.  The fourth shows Hortensio and Bianca.  The fifth shows Bianca fighting with Katharina.


The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy about love and marriage.

Baptista, a gentleman of Padua, forbids his popular younger daughter, Bianca, to marry before his elder child, Katherina (known as Kate), has herself found a husband.

Kate is considered troublesome, however, and so suitors for her hand are not forthcoming.

The sisters' situation seems hopeless until the arrival of adventurer Petruchio, who determines to tame the apparently shrewish Kate.

For this modern dress production of The Taming of the Shrew, the action was brought forward in time to the 1930s.  A well remembered revival, it emphasised the dark undertones of Shakespeare's outwardly humorous play and is particularly notable for its opening sequence. 

As the production began, a man (later revealed to be the tinker, Sly, played by Jonathan Pryce) rushed out of the audience, creating a disturbance and leaping onto the stage.  He tore down the ostentatious set, exposing bare walls and a grim metal framework (around which the play was then staged). 

While many theatregoers were delighted by the ruckus, Pryce's performance as a drunken madman was so convincing that it was not unknown for some to call the police (as Elyse Sommer points out in a review of a later production).


Baptista Minola, a wealthy citizen of Padua ... Paul Brooke
Katharina, the Shrew, elder daughter of Baptista ... Paola Dionisotti
Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona, suitor for the hand of Katharina ... Jonathan Pryce
Grumio, Petruchio's personal lackey ... David Suchet
Curtis, Petruchio's servant, in charge of his country house ... Juliet Stevenson
A Tailor ... James Griffin
A Haberdasher ... Conrad Asquith
Bianca, the Prize, younger daughter of Baptista ... ZoŽ Wanamaker
Gremio, a wealthy citizen of Padua, suitor for the hand of Bianca ... Paul Webster
Hortensio, a gentleman of Padua, suitor for the hand of Bianca ... David Lyon
Lucentio, a gentleman of Pisa, in love with Bianca ... Anthony Higgins
Tranio, Lucentio's servant and confidant ... Ian Charleson
Biondello, Lucentio's second servant ... Allan Hendrick
Vincentio, a wealthy citizen of Pisa, father of Lucentio ... George Raistrick
A Pedant of Mantua ... Geoffrey Freshwater
A Widow, in love with Hortensio ... Juliet Stevenson

Other parts played by members of the cast and Alan Barker, Bill Buffery, Ian Reddington, and Ruby Wax.


Director: Michael Bogdanov
Designer: Chris Dyer
Music and Sound: Tony Haynes
Lighting Designer: Chris Ellis
Company Voice Work: Cicely Berry
Assistant Director: David Tucker
Stage Manager: Robin Miskimmin (Royal Shakespeare)/Titus Grant (Aldwych)
Deputy Stage Manager: Trevor Williamson (Royal Shakespeare)/Juliet Mander (Aldwych)
Assistant Stage Manager: David Proctor (Royal Shakespeare)/Simon Hooper (Aldwych)
Sound: Roland Morrow and John A Leonard (Aldwych)
Theatre Programme: Ellen Goodman
Theatre Programme Designer: John Farley
Production Photographer: Laurence Burns
Music Director: Michael Tubbs (Royal Shakespeare)/John Riley (Aldwych)
Musicians (Royal Shakespeare): Ian Reynolds (flute/piccolo), Ted Watson (clarinet), Peter Morris (tuba), Robert Pritchard (trumpet/cornet), Glenn Coleman (trumpet/cornet), Gareth Richards (trombone), Robin Weatherall (euphonium), Peter Wastell (percussion)
Musicians (Aldwych): Graham Nash (flute/piccolo), Victor Slaymark (clarinet), Richard Skinner (euphonium), Alan Sinclair (tuba), Stephen Jenner (trumpet/cornet), Ian Cameron (trumpet/cornet), Paul Barrett (trombone), Jim Beryl (percussion)


The Taming of the Shrew is one of the many productions in which ZoŽ has appeared with the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company.  She joined the RSC at a very interesting stage in its development, sensing an exciting new dynamic among the actors.  'Some of us now at the RSC have a different sort of energy that has not been smoothed, shined or made acceptable.  I like that', she commented at the time (see 'I Yearn To Be So Free and Comfortable on That Stage' interview).

This production gave Zoe another opportunity to play Bianca, following her appearance in Kiss Me Kate (1975), the musical based on Shakespeare's comedy.  She had also played Bianca's shrewish sister, Kate, in another production of The Taming of the Shrew (1975).

Performing together in The Taming of the Shrew and Wild Oats (1976), ZoŽ and Ruby Wax (who was ZoŽ's understudy in Shakespeare's comedy) became very good friends.  When Wax invited several close friends to afternoon tea, as part of a magazine photoshoot in 2005, Zoe was among the attendees and recalled their having met at the RSC.

In addition to The Taming of the Shrew, ZoŽ's RSC productions during the 1970s include The Devil's Disciple, Ivanov (1976), Wild Oats (1976), Captain Swing (1978), Piaf (1978), and Once in a Lifetime (1979).  During the 1980s, she returned to the company for Twelfth Night (1983), The Comedy of Errors (1983), Mother Courage and Her Children (1984), and Othello (1989).


The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Related links

The Taming of the Shrew production photos - Designing Shakespeare Collection, AHDS Performing Arts Database

The Taming of the Shrew production photo - Em-agination.net (scroll down page to view image)

The Taming of the Shrew (Royal Shakespeare Theatre) production information - Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (information about the production at its subsequent venues can be found by searching the RSC Performance Database on the Trust's website)

Discussion of the opening of this production of The Taming of the Shrew - Wikipedia

The Taming of the Shrew plot summary and RSC staging history - The RSC Shakespeare

The Taming of the Shrew complete text - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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