Presented in repertory, The Taming of the Shrew will open on 15 January (preview 14 January) and will continue with six performances a week, followed by The Tamer Tamed, opening on 22 January and continuing with two weekly performances.
In both Shakespeare's comedy and John Fletcher's lesser-known sequel, Jasper Britton and Alexandra Gilbreath and a 24-strong company, playing the alternately wooing, warring and wedding Petruchio and his respective wives Kate and Maria. Both plays are directed by Doran and designed by Gregory Doran, with music by Paul Englishby, movement by Michael Ashcroft and sound by Martin Slavin.
The productions originally opened in Stratford-upon-Avon in March 2003 and, prior to their West End season, will have a Christmas run in Washington DC. The West End transfer follows Whatsonstage.com's report - followed up in numerous national newspapers - revealing discontent amongst the acting company, who'd given the RSC management an extra week's grace to extend their contracts in the hope of a London season (See News, 7 Oct 2003).
At the time, however, with no base in the capital since withdrawing from the Barbican Centre and no co-production arrangements in place, it looked like there would not be a single London transfer from this year's RSC Festival season - for the first time in the company's history.
The RSC are now in advanced negotiations to find a new London home, which Boyd has previously said is "absolutely crucial" to the future of the company. An announcement is expected at the start of 2004 about a 'temporary' venue intended to see it through the next four to five years. The aim is to have this in place by October 2004, in time to take transfers of the four Shakespeare Tragedies and other productions in the spring 2004 Festival line-up.
Kenwright and Holt are also the commercial producers behind last year's Olivier Award-winning RSC Jacobethan season as well as the upcoming Judi Dench-led All's Well That Ends Well at the West End's Gielgud Theatre.
The Taming of the Shrew and The Tamer Tamed double bill has already made history in that it's believed to be the first major pairing of these two plays in some 370 years. In the West End, it may also have the distinction of being the last plays performed at the 980-seat Queen's, at least for a very long while. As confirmed last week (See News, 21 Nov 2003), after 18 years at the Palace, Cameron Mackintosh's production of Boublil and Schonberg's long-running blockbuster musical Les Miserables will move in early April to the Queen's.
- by Terri Paddock