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The Stage - Published Friday 12 June 2009 by Mike Martin


A beautiful outdoor setting on a fine summer’s evening. What better platform could there be for the staging of one of the Bard’s classics?

Indeed, the Rain or Shine Theatre Company excels in achieving a perfect atmosphere. Complementing the original text with welcome modern elements, including several musical interludes in which the cast displays simple yet effective instrumental skills, this is a light-hearted romp.

Long considered controversial to enlightened audiences, the essential theme of male domination is played out good-naturedly with a heavy dose of irony.
James Reynard and Charlotte Kingsford are faultless as the warring couple, Petruchio and Katharina. Their well choreographed verbal and physical sparring is a joy to watch - two fiery personalities clashing without quarter. Although Petruchio ultimately tames his shrew, she somehow maintains her spirit, even when delivering the famous end speech of subjugation. In essence demeaning to modern women, these words are spoken with a subtle skill by Kingsford which leaves one feeling that Petruchio will have his work cut out yet.

Lively and enthusiastic performances abound from all the cast, with comical set-pieces superbly handled, notably by Craig Rogers and Rob Leetham. Rogers, particularly, is blessed with warmly expressive features.
Most of the performers play dual roles, but the action is slick and well timed. Pippa Meekings can portray an alluring Bianca as well as a streetwise lad, a guise in which she carries off a tongue-twisting, rapid-fire monologue.

Another clever example of how Shakespeare’s works, when intelligently interpreted, can display numerous levels of depth.

King Edward and Queen Mary School, Lytham Published 16th June 2009 by Julian Wilde


This was outdoor theatre at its very best.

Rain or Shine’s versatile company revelled in a warm, still Lytham evening, a substantial and attentive audience and a delightfully leafy setting. They produced a fast-paced, inventive and accessible interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s more uncomfortable themes.

The tempestuous relationship between Petruchio and Kate – both excellently portrayed  by director James Reynard and Charlotte Kingsford – is here played out largely in the midst of comically farcical scenes.   
Craig Rogers, Thomas P. Jordan, Nicholas Karpenko, Rob Leetham ,producer Jayne Lloyd and Pippa Meekings  are all adept at every type of physical comedy and the play’s demands for constant disguises and changes of costume and voice suit their skills admirably.

The humour makes it a very involving experience, but, in the second half particularly, Petruchio and Kate give full weight to Shakespeare’s words as the awkward question of the obedient wife is brought to the fore. This intelligent production presents a Kate who may be dutiful, but is not lacking in independence and spirit –  aptly symbolised by her fiery dance which concludes the performance.  

Rain or Shine were making their 10th consecutive visit to Lytham and this was certainly a five star production and performance – a treat in store for the other 63 outdoor venues on their countrywide summer tour.

The Northern Echo - 12th July 2009

MORE outside interests, as Honourable Members might put it, we headed the following evening for Mount Grace Priory to watch the aptly named Rain or Shine Theatre Company perform The Taming of the Shrew.  Almost everything they do is outdoors, 64 seasonally-adjusted performances of The Winter’s Tale last sodden summer and never once rain stopped the play.

Maybe 300 people gathered on the green, Mr Murray out of Wimbledon so clearly the best hope of weekend action. Some carried not only director’s chairs but tables, posh picnics and champagne.

By 7.25pm, sky as black as a Carthusian habit, the sudden light breeze was sufficient to blow the scenery over. A Mount Grace act of God, five minutes later there’d have been actors in front of it. The rain hithered, hovered, havered. Some donned the sort of waterproofs worn on the Runswick Bay lifeboat, others the transparent hoodies now familiar on the Olden Mile. There they sat, plastic pierrots, though for two hours a drop never touched.
The company, just eight of them, were dextrously able to work into the prologue the now-routine message about mobile phones but should also have mentioned umbrellas, and where those who insist upon raising them during open-air performances might most beneficially do so.

The play was brilliant, the cast energetic, funny and given to the occasional ad lib. There were bats but, so far as reasonably could be ascertained, no stoats. At 9.25pm it finally rained, some slight occupational irritation to the duck’s back theatre company but for the brolly wallies the moment they’d been awaiting. Camp followers, oblivious to those temporarily blinded behind, the wretched people left their protection aloft long after the rain checked, more spit and polish than a serious storm.

It was a lovely evening, nonetheless, better Kate than never, and not a soul headed home before the happy ending. It finished with a jolly little song, which should probably have been There’ll Always Be an England. That, after all, is the real midsummer nights’ theme.

Eastern Daily Press - Liz Coates, 12th June

THEY came in their hundreds to an open air picnic production of Shakespeare staged in the garden of a Broadland village hall. Although the chilly evening was not quite as summery as organisers had hoped audience figures of more than 200 were enough to rival those garnered by stately homes.

People from as far as Rotherham travelled to Ormesby St Margaret on Saturday to see the Rain or Shine theatre company's version of one of The Bard's most popular comedies, The Taming of the Shrew.

The success of the event in only its second year bowled over organisers who aimed to bring a high calibre performance to the village and raise the profile of the Friends of St Margaret's Church which will benefit from the proceeds. Spokesman Geoff Freeman said “It was absolutely fantastic.

We had about 220 people and people were arriving from 5.30pm with their picnics and the weather was in our favour. Ticket sales soared in the end and it went without a hitch.

The actors were fantastic, I cannot describe how good it was."

CAERLEON ARTS FESTIVAL 2009 -  31st May: The Shrew Got Tamed

Bathed in glorious sunshine the garden of the Wheatsheaf Inn was a stunning setting for an outstanding performance of "The Taming of the Shrew" by the Gloucester based "Rain or Shine Theatre Company". 
This imaginative production held the attention of a capacity audience from start to finish.

 The cast exploited Shakespeare's humour to great effect, and the perspectives offered on the "battle of the sexes" were provocatively enjoyable.  A hugely satisfying performance was followed by a hugely satisfying hog roast.

Portsmouth News - At Bishop's Waltham Palace- 10 July 2009 - By Jodie Jeynes

It's a story that prompts much debate. A headstrong woman (Katherine) is turned into an obedient wife by her manipulative husband (Petruchio).

Apart from the battle of the sexes argument that arises from this early Shakespeare comedy, there are also obvious quandaries in that Katherine never really lost her spirit and Petruchio didn't appear to want her to.

An important factor often left out of productions of this Bard classic is that in its original form it is a play within a play – a farce depicting the fantasy of a deluded male character.

Though the Rain Or Shine Theatre Company presented only the central play, they wrapped it in a light-hearted scenario, arriving as travelling players of Shakespeare's age and introducing the play with some fun banter including quips at Peter Viggers.

The cast were faultless. Highlights were Charlotte Kingsford's broodings as Katherine, Nicholas Karpenko's ease and comic ability in each of his parts, plus Rob Leetham and Jayne Lloyd's supporting roles
Hereford Times - Wednesday 22nd July 2009


THEY’RE called Rain or Shine, but an enthusiastic and appreciative audience at Dore Abbey were delighted that the company’s production of The Taming of the Shrew was performed in glorious sunshine. The story of the gold-digging Petruchio and his attempts to ‘woo’ the feisty Katharina is not without controversy in the 21st century, with its message that subjugation of a wife is the key to domestic harmony and a successful marriage. But ladle on a heavy dose of irony and a tongue-in-cheek attitude and Rain or Shine succeed in accentuating the humour and eliminating the polemic.
There is a touch of Stepford Wives about the end of the play, but this, in a strange way, makes the work feel more contemporary than it might otherwise. As director James Reynard says, “It is perhaps best watched with a knowing smile and a nod to a writer well ahead of his time.” Energetic and convincing performances from all the cast, especially James Reynard as Petruchio (a perfectly judged degree of swagger) and Charlotte Kingsford as Katharina (convincing as curst shrew and with a twinkle that suggested Petruchio’s domination was not as complete as he believed), ensured a thoroughly entertaining evening, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as the ensemble gave their all to the complex plot involving Katharina’s sister Bianca’s web of suitors. Special mention should be made of Pippa Meekings’ performances in her dual roles as Bianca and Biondello - and her willingness to get soaked. No rain, but plenty of water.

CHEPSTOW CASTLE, FRIDAY 17 JULY 2009 by Fennie Somerville

True love!  That’s the answer, isn’t it? And if Kate and Petruchio find true love then all the business that passes between them, the eponymous ‘Taming of the Shrew,’ is so much hot air for them and amusement for us.  For unlike some ‘Shrews,’ this was a happy, if hard-bitten, romantic comedy that can leave everyone content.
Yes, it’s ‘Rain or Shine’ time again: that wet fortnight at the beginning of July when the strolling players come westwards and southwards into this little corner of our land sometimes this side of the Welsh border, sometimes that, depending on which night you turn up.

Yesterday they played in Chepstow Castle, that most magnificent pile of masonry beside the River Wye that pre-dates even the earliest of Shakespeare’s history plays. As usual the performance was al fresco (we might as well start early with the Italian seeing as ‘the Shrew,’ like so many of Uncle Will’s creations, is set in Lombardy).  As usual, this is Shakespeare played, one imagines, ‘as she was writ’ that is to be rumbustious, comic, full of business - verbal pyrotechnics for the masses, all overlying one or two more serious themes. 

The serious theme here of course is the extent to which a wife should obey her husband - indeed - to what extent should a husband bend a wife to his will? “I will have my property,” says Petruchio as he throws Kate over his shoulder and rides off after a precipitate wedding.  Kate, of course, resists, as she has spiritedly resisted everything that has come before in her life.

That duel of spirits is indeed the axis on which the play turns.  But here Shakespeare takes us back to a world with which his audience would have been entirely familiar, but of which most people today are entirely ignorant - the world of falconry.  Petruchio likens Kate to a hawk that must be ‘manned’ - a singularly appropriate description in Kate’s case - and through lack of food and sleep be made to sit with docility on his master’s fist.

Anyone reading TH White’s marvellous book, ‘The Goshawk’ can relive that author’s experience as long night follows long day while the Goshawk of the title - a Kate by any other name - sits sullenly on his fist bating savagely at every opportunity. Following the old methods he does not feed the hawk, nor let it sleep, but instead reads to it - Shakespeare as it happens.  He rewards the bird when it is still, but until the hawk accepts him, he does not sleep nor eat himself, his only sustenance being a glass of whisky and more Shakespeare.  It is an epic battle of wills: man against bird.

‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is thus this ‘man against bird’ story transferred to the human sphere and the question is: who will really win - how should the play end?  Three couples share the ending so there are endless possibilities for a director.  Let me not therefore tell you how this production ends but only say that the Director, James Reynard, who also plays Petruchio to Charlotte Kingsford’s magnificently haughty Kate, is endlessly creative and there are twists, surprises - and laughs - galore.

Of all the plays ‘Rain or Shine’ have done in the past few years this is certainly one of the best performances yet.  Wonderfully slick, beautifully spoken and acted - extravagant in its physical comedy - but also eminently believable.

As an audience we may have been windswept (but dry at least, indeed the sky was practically cloudless) by the stiff breeze that rolled up the river and swirled around the castle battlements, demolishing part of the minimalist scenery before the play had really even begun.  We may also have been a thin audience, for many people would surely have been put off by the surfeit of rain over recent days and in the great space of Chepstow’s Middle Bailey our response and applause must have sounded painfully weak and unappreciative. 

Nevertheless, like true professionals the company carried on strongly, putting every ounce of energy and not a little physical discomfort into the proceedings.

A really super show - and worth going out of your way to see.  Only do remember to wrap up well.  The weather can be most unkind after the interval even if it doesn’t rain. Don’t be afraid of overdressing. Leave the dashing about in flimsies to the cast.

Bacon Theatre Open Air Festival, Cheltenham - Joyce Matthews  - Thursday 23rd July 2009

Crackerjack Home pageb

Crackerjack rating: 7 / 10.

They're called the Rain or Shine Theatre Company for good reason.
Whatever the weather, the play must go on and so actors and audience started out in pouring rain, which slowly cleared to reveal blue skies and a clear evening under the stars at the Tuckwell Amphitheatre. And that in a way summed up this production. A little overcast and dull at the start, but brightening later with sunny spells.

It was a pretty straightforward take on the Bard's famous story, with the cast as a band of strolling players, presenting the tale of how the spirited, headstrong Katharina is wooed and tamed by the fortune-hunting wife-seeker Petruchio. Add a host of young suitors, all vying for the hand of her dainty sister Bianca and you have everything from sibling rivalry to cunning plots and slapstick, all in the name of love.

Of course, the characters of Katharina, played by Charlotte Kingsford, and Petruchio, played by James Reynard, are the audience favourites and the play came to life when they met for the first time. Sparks flew in well done comic scenes where they circled and fought like wildcats. Reynard was a commanding presence and Kingsford was both spirited and demure as the very un-PC battle of the sexes was played out.

They were supported by a cast that drew humour from every line, especially Nicholas Karpenko as Hortensio and Vincentio and Thomas P Jordan who played Lucentio and Curtis. And James Reynard as director and Jayne Lloyd, producer, introduced some quirky touches. In particular, the cast seemed to enjoy tipping water over each other in true slapstick style - ironically just as the rain had stopped. An enjoyable outdoor performance.


Stour and Avon Magazine., Marilyn Barber, Walford Mill, Wimborne - Sept 4th 2009

THERE may have been a lot more water than sun this year at the Rain or Shine Theatre Company's 65 date tour, but the eight talented actors have the sparkle and adaptability to be able to cope with anything the weather throws at them. Fortunately at Walford Mill last Saturday the capacity audience had to cope with chill rather than last year's downpour.

 Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew which centuries later became an Elizabeth Taylor movie of the same name, the musical Kiss me Kate and the film 10 Things I Hate About You, is the story of a father Baptista Minola who refuses to let his spoilt younger daughter Bianca marry until a suitor is found for her tempestuous older sister Katharina. Enter Lucentio, suitor to Bianca, and fortune-hunting Petruchio who reckons he can tame the kicking, spitting Kate. Characters disguise themselves as others and there is plenty of fun and amusement as Katharina is tamed - or is she? And Bianca appears more placid - or not? The audience can make up its mind as to which would be the happiest union.

Pippa Meekings in her fourth appearance at Walford Mill is flirty and impish as Bianca and barely recognisable in her second part as the mischievous young servant Biondello. Charlotte Kingsford (Hermione in last year's Winter's Tale) clearly revelled in the opportunity to display some really bad behaviour in the role of Katharina.

With strong performances from James Reynard as Petruchio, Craig Rogers as Tranio, Nicholas Karpenko as Hortensio/Vincentio, Rob Leetham as Baptista/ Grumio and Thomas P. Jordan as Lucentio/Curtis, not to mention producer Jayne Lloyd who popped up in three roles, it was an evening of professional theatre, greeted by an appreciative audience at an atmospheric venue.

Rain or Shine is looking for indoor venues throughout the country for a winter tour of A Christmas Carol. If you have access to a theatre, village hall, conference centre, school or any indoor performance space contact them at theatre@rainorshine.co.uk

Marilyn Barber

Stour and Avon Magazine.



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