Soham Grammarians -The Taming of the Shrew, March 16-18 1972

The Taming of the Shrew

The Plot

The play is introduced by an 'Induction' in which Christopher Sly, a drunken tinker, is thrown out of a pub and falls asleep. A lord and his company find him and decide to play a practical joke by convincing him that he is a lord himself. They arrange for a travelling company of actors to perform a play for Sly's special benefit. This play, which follows, is The Taming of the Shrew.

Baptista of Padua has two daughters. The younger, Bianca, is courted by Gremio and Hortensio; they are both outmanoeuvered by Lucentio, who disguises himself first as his own servant Tranio, and then as a schoolmaster in order to win her love. Tranio, disguised as his master, aids and abets his plan, Meanwhile Katharina, Baptista's notoriously shrewish elder daughter, is slighted by all until Petruchio arrives from Verona and determines to marry her. He woos her tempestuously, meets rudeness with rudeness, scrambles through a marriage ceremony, harries and humiliates her; but while he threatens and blusters he is also falling in love with her - and she with him.

On their way back to Baptista's house they meet Lucentio's father, Vincentio. The confusion over Lucentio's identity is sorted out and a celebration party is held at which there are three newly married couples: Petruchio and Katharina, Lucentio and Bianca and Hortensio and a wealthy widow whom he has wed after losing Bianca. The bridegrooms bet as to which of them has the most obedient wife. Katharina eloquently expresses her new found opinions as to the true duty of a wife, and Petruchio wins the bet.

The Production

Soham Grammar School presents a contemporary Cambridgeshire interpretation of The Shrew. The scene is in the yard of a present day pub; the actors wear modern dress. In this last production of the Soham Grammar School Dramatic Society, past and present meet in one of the most carefree plays ever written.


SOHAM GRAMMAR SCHOOL, in conjunction with ELY HIGH SCHOOL, presents
William Shakespeare



Christopher Sly, a tinker Nicholas Richardson
Hostess Lesley Darlington
A Lord Stephen Seymour
Huntsmen Stephen Oakey, Robert Turner
Servants Robert Hardwick, Kevin Lancashire, Richard Stonebridge
Bartholomew, a page Kevin Parsons
Lucentio, a wealthy young man from Pisa David Scott
Tranio, his servant Richard Simpson
Biondello, his second servant David Plumb
Baptista Minola, a rich gentleman of Padua Peter Newell
Katharina, his elder daughter Susan Beeby
Bianca, his younger daughter Rosemary Russell
Hortensio, suitor of Bianca Mark Curtis
Gremio, elderly suitor of Bianca James Roberts
Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona Martin Allen
Grumio, his servant Martin Brunt
Curtis, his housekeeper Davina Argent
A Pedant, who impersonates Vincentio Martyn Davies
Vincentio, of Pisa, Lucentio's father Robert Taylor
A Tailor Robert Turner
A Haberdasher Catherine Martin
A Rich Widow Frances Hatch
Servants, messengers, etc. Stephen Oakey, Kevin Lancashire, Robert Hardwick, Richard Stonebridge, Lesley Darlington

There will be one interval of twenty minutes

Set design and construction Mr PJ Askem, Mr RGS Bozeat
V Gudgeon, A Nix, M Miller, B Anderson, S Brown, C Butler, PW Peachey, P Riches, R Taylor, S Neeves
Posters Programmes and tickets SL Murfitt, V Gudgeon, A Chilvers
Lighting E Scannell, SB Thornhill, A Steel
Sound Recordist DP Phillips
Properties Miss PL O'Keeffe, RG Street
Make-up Miss AR Dunton, Mrs S Beeby, Mrs J Peers, Mrs B Zinober, Mr G Edwards, Mr DH Riley
Stage Manager Mr RJ Humphry assisted by JW Carter, DP Fellows and Lesley Darlington
Business Manager Mr RJ Abbott assisted by SJ Coxhead, PW Peachey and KK Stone
Producer Mr R Russell

Grateful thanks are extended to all those who have helped with furnishings and properties, especially to the "Cherry Tree", Soham, and the Arts Theatre, Cambridge.

The Headmaster and the producer wish to thank most sincerely the Headmistress and the English Department of Ely High School for their kind co-operation in making the production of this play possible.

source: Stephen Murfitt, Nov 2007: All the posters and programmes at that time were produced in the Art Department. They were designed and screen printed (one at a time), under the supervision of Peter Askem. This task was carried out by a small team of keen 6th form art students during lunch times and after school we were printing, cutting, folding and stapling. Quality control was very strict!

from the 1972 Soham Grammarian

How we tamed the Shrew
Gremio (James Roberts LVI Languages)

The Producer put his pipe on the desk in room four and eyed the Lower Sixth English Option keenly. We had heard rumours already and knew what he wanted: volunteers for the school play. There was a deathly silence as everybody tried to look insignficant or think of a good excuse for opting out, a silence so heavy, so compelling, that eventually two sets of nerves went and two hands went up.

After a while and a few choice words from the Producer, five more hands went up, and, along with two outsiders - Curtis the Geographer and Davies the Scientist - we had the required nine male characters accounted for. Six wenches were imported from Ely High School for the female characters and several fourth years from our school filled in all the gaps (usually). That gave us a total cast of twenty-four.

Then, when the actors had received their parts, the Christmas holidays cropped up, a heaven-sent opportunity for the grim business of line-learning.

Martin Allen (Petruchio) and Susan Beeby (Katherine)

Things happen, you know, at Christmas - skittish, frivolous things; parties, and, well, more parties and things: suffice it to say, that after the holidays, only the conscientious Lucentio (David Scott) had learned his lines, and the rest of us could only remember the odd group of words, here and there, from ours.

The first rehearsals dragged through, with us mumbling lines stiltedly from books, and things looked thoroughly murky. Then came the coup de grace - the Power Cuts. Because of these, we could not rehearse after school, and it was difficult to find time during school hours. So we nobly - albeit sorrowfully - donated our English Literature lessons. And soon some actors knew as many as four or even five of their lines.

Then, as the actors started to master their individual roIes, things really started to improve. Pieces of costume were brought along for approval and the woodworkers started to construct the set. We started to take the play seriously, although, of course, there was always the odd laugh from time to time: Biondello (David Plumb) would wander off just before he was due to come on stage, or somebody would catch their thumb a doughty whack with a hammer behind the half-completed scenery, little things like that you know; but in general the play began to really feel like a play, and there seemed little anxiety now about people not knowing their lines for the first night. We spent forty hours on twenty-three rehearsals (figures quoted from Lucentio), but it would probably have been more but for the Power Strike and the Sixth Form Conference involving the schools of this area in a meeting lasting two school-days at Ely.

The real enthusiasm started when we acted in costume for the first time, and although there was only one walking-stick between three old man parts at first (surprising how dignified one feels with a walking-stick), we contrived to manage. We did not actually wear make-up until three rehearsals from the first night. Nasty stuff, that make-up. You can't imagine how unpleasant it is to have scribbling all over your face with a grease stick. Perhaps you can though. Anyway, don't try it because it tastes nasty too; and it make you feel hot under all the powerful stage lights; and it won't come off without rubbing some unspeakable glutinous cream on it.

All this preparatory activity took place in the Physics lab, upstairs, near the stage. During the interlude, there would be a mad rush for the lab, where there were cold drinks and make-up officials, with menacing black grease-sticks to repair drooping eyebrows, which had been washed away by streams of perspiration. One could look around and see a knot of onlookers around a Monty Python book provided by the Pedant (Martyn Davies); looking farther one could perceive Biondello preparing for his big scene where he describes the approach of Petruchio (Martin Allen) and his horse, to his wedding with Kate (Susan Beeby), which received the round of applause it deserved, especially on the final night.

The other noteworthy speech, of course, is made by Kate, the Tamed Shrew, to the rebellious wives Bianca and the rich Widow (if a widow can be a wife) played by Rosemary Russell and Frances Hatch, of Lucentio (David Scott) and Hortensio (Mark Curtis), the forty-three line speech never failed to produce a respectful silence even during the most frolicsome rehearsal. But it does seem a shame now that it is no longer useful: how nice it would be, for example, to quote that lot in an exam. Still. . . .

I've just realised, I have hardly mentioned Petruchio (Martin Allen) the main male actor, who threw his weight and voice around most effectively as the flamboyant and bouncing Shrew-Tamer. Nor have I mentioned Baptista (Peter Newell), nor Grumio (Martin Brunt) nor Tranio (Richard Simpson); in fact there are so many I have not mentioned, I might as well give up in despair. I hope that the glory of taking part in Soham Grammar School's last play is enough for them ....

Then there were the woodworkers, whose noble construction resisted even the violent door-slamming exits of Kate, and the violent door-slamming entrance of the Barmaid (Lesley Darlington) at the beginning. And the stage-lighting crew, and the make-up wielders, and the general helpers, who tackled each problem as it arose, from the loss of Kate's hat on the final night to the extraction of costumes and other props from donors inside and outside the school circle. And the Producer, Mr. Russell, who, although driven to despondency during earlier rehearsals, never actually lost his temper.

They must all forgive me for not mentioning all their names. I knew that the cast are most grateful for their vitally important roles in making the last spasm of the Soham Grammar School and Ely High School Drama Club go with a bang and not with a whimper.

from the 1972 Soham Grammarian

School maintains high standard in last production

There was a blend of past and present for Shakespeare's play within a play, The Taming of The Shrew, presented by Soham Grammar School Dramatic Society - its last production before the school loses its identity under the comprehensive system.

The play was performed in modern dress but the producer decided to maintain the Shakespearean dialogue which blended well with the modern setting of a public house yard. Lesley Darlington, as the Hostess, showed that, although pantaloons have long been out of fashion, the foul-mouthed barmaid can stand the test of time. The sight of the principals in jeans would cause Shakespeare to turn in his grave but it was a refreshing change for an audience used to seeing traditional drama in traditional costume. A stage setting that included a bus stop and beer crates made a suitable background for this contemporary interpretation of The Shrew.

The plot is no more improbable today than it was when Shakespeare wrote the play, and the sight of Petruchio (Martin Allen) in wellingtons and the servants in combat jackets made the play even more carefree than the original productions. The quality of the acting was up to the usual high standard of Soham Grammar School productions. It was carefree but never careless and Martin Allen and Susan Beeby, as the two main characters, set a good standard which was followed by the remainder of the cast.

The contrast between Katharine (Susan Beeby) and her younger sister Bianca (Rosemary Russell) was well illustrated, as was the clever dialogue between Petruchio and his servant Grumio (Martin Brunt). David Scott gave a good performance as Lucentio in his many disguises, ably supported by his servant Tranio (Richard Simpson). The contrasting characters of Bianca's suitors Gremio (James Roberts), Hortensio (Mark Curtis), and Lucentio provided an added interest to competition between the three for Bianca's hand in marriage.

Martin Allen's wooing of The Shrew was the highlight of the play. He was dominant, rude and at times almost brutal, but despite this he still managed to fall in love with her and she with him. Susan Beeby's transformation from The Shrew to an obedient wife was equally impressive.

In this last play, Soham Grammar School players maintained their high standard, a standard that must not be allowed to drop when the sixth form moves to Ely. The producer, Mr. R. Russell, achieved a good result in what was his first and last play at the school.

The stage setting, if not as elaborate as those in previous productions, was equally impressive and in tone with the production. The Grammar School players can look back on this play as their last success.

J.G. (Reprinted in the Soham Grammarian by kind permission of the Newmarket Journal)

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page last updated 1 Nov 2007