A battlements backdrop for the Bard’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

“You can’t keep clapping a couple of sticks of dynamite together without expecting them to blow up,” Elizabeth Taylor once said of her twice-husband Richard Burton – which is particularly true given that both of them were permanently soaked in strong booze.  But she could have equally been referring to Katherina and Petruchio, the main characters in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, who she and Burton rather fittingly played in a 1967 film at the height of their careers and tempestuous love affair.

The source material for the Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levit film Ten Things I Hate About You, the play is one of Shakespeare’s edgiest comedies. The title character, Katherina, is a formidable minx with a sharp tongue, whose wealthy father fears will never find a husband – how unfortunate to think that audiences back then never got to see her played by an actual woman. But she hadn’t bargained on fortune-seeking Petruchio, a quick-thinker who sees an opportunity to get rich. For an alternative to Burton, check out John Cleese in the 1980 BBC version – he really is brilliant.

But then again, it’s still August and we should be grabbing every opportunity we can to enjoy the big outdoors, so why not try this year’s Rosenborg Castle production instead. As in previous years, the roving American Dance Group of Europe (ADGE) is pairing up with The New Theatre (TNT) to perform in Copenhagen as part of their annual castle tour of Scandinavia – for one night only.  

ADGE and TNT will transform the courtyard of Copenhagen’s Rosenborg Castle into a nostalgic open-aired amphitheatre that will transport your imagination back to Shakespeare’s Renaissance period, putting any modern rooftop cinema to shame. Additionally, music plays a large role in this Shakespearean battle of the sexes, which on this occasion will be provided by a live quartet.

There’s no doubt the production companies know what they’re doing, as this is their 20th anniversary year touring together. British newspaper The Guardian commends their work as “the most interesting development on the current theatrical scene”, and they are widely considered to be one of the most popular and well recognised theatre companies in the world. Their productions present a dynamic actor-based style of theatre that favours fantasy, imagination, physicality and a muscular approach to serious text. “We also like a good laugh,” adds Paul Stebbings, the artistic director.

Nothing is more important, contends Stebbings, than the interaction between the actors and the audience. “The relationship is essential in our theatre,” he said. “It is not between actor and text, or actor and actor, but actor and audience.”

According to Stebbings, the actors are chosen for their ability to cross the disciplines of theatre, music and dance and, with Rosenborg as the backdrop, the audience’s imagination will surely be the production’s greatest weapon.  

Although an international touring company performing in English, the company is in fact German-based. Its creative energy stems from Munich’s vivacious environment and it give over 500 performances annually. Distinguished festivals in which the company participates in include New York’s International Off-Broadway festival, the Tokyo International Theatre Festival, and the British National Theatre Summer Festival.

For an evening of quick wit and fiery spirit, The Taming of the Shrews will be hard to beat. Weather permitting, hopefully all you’ll be soaking up is the words of a literary genius, and maybe a few glassed of Burton and Taylor’s best.

The Taming of the Shrew Rosenborg Castle Gardens (aka Kongens Have), either Øster Voldgade 4A or Gothersgade 80, Cph K; Thu (Aug 29) 18:00; tickets 200kr, concessions 90kr, www.billetnet.dk; www.adg-europe.com