WHEN the Castle Players last performed The Taming of the Shrew, the opening night in Barnard Castle drew placard-waving demonstrators convinced that Shakespeare's plot was an insult to modern women.

That was 14 years ago, and though the cast of this Teesdale company has changed, the plot is the same and the players hope this year's annual outdoor performance in the grounds of the Bowes Museum will go ahead without a hitch.

The well-known comedy is described as a colourful tale of sparring suitors, one of whom is the high-spirited Kate - the shrew who is eventually tamed - and the players make no secret of the fact that it is full of political incorrectness.

Kate's father is determined to get her off his hands before he will allow her younger sister to marry, resulting in headaches all round. Finding Kate a suitable husband is the challenge of the piece.

Rising to the challenges of the production, the players' cast includes familiar faces and newcomers, including some from the group's youth theatre, The Turrets.

The play opens on Wednesday, July 6, and runs until Saturday, July 9. Seats for the Wednesday and Thursday shows cost £10, ground mats cost £5. The Friday and Saturday performances cost £12 per seat; £5 for ground mats. A special opening night offer allows a ground mat ticket for 1p for every seat ticket bought, but these are limited.

Performances start at 7.30. The grounds open at 6.45, and there will be a 45-minute interval for picnics. Audiences are advised to take warm, waterproof clothing.

Bookings can be made on free-phone 0800 074 7080, which is manned from 10am-4pm seven days a week, but messages can be left outside these hours. Most major UK debit and credit cards are accepted, incurring a £1 transaction charge.

Bookings can also be made at the Bowes Museum reception and at Darlington Building Society in Barnard Castle until June 30 when any remaining will be sold through the booking office.

For more details, visit the web site at www.castleplayers.co.uk.

Sheila Dixon