THIS is a noisy, robust, hilarious comedy in Shakespearean style, although it was written by John Fletcher as a sequel to The Taming of the Shrew. Katherine, the 'shrew', is dead and the play opens on the wedding day of Petruchio to his second wife, the gentle Maria.

When the drunken bridegroom arrives with his rowdy friends to claim his bride, he finds she has barricaded herself in her room with her friend Bianca and refuses to sleep with him until he moderates his behaviour.

Other women in the town hear of the revolt and hurry to join the cause, taking to the streets with washboards, pots and ladles which they use to accompany their song of defiance. Of course, there's a happy ending after much trickery and misunderstanding. Jasper Britton as Petruchio alternately roars his fury and ponders his bewilderment, frequently interacting with the audience in an amusing and appealing way.

The women are witty and dominant without being too strident, and Alexandra Gilbreath as Maria and Eve Myles as Bianca establish a sisterhood with every woman in the audience. There is some fine, authentic-sounding music from a small group of musicians, which adds greatly to the atmosphere, especially in the rip-roaring clog dance performed by the marching women. It's a thoroughly enjoyable play, with engaging characters and humorous dialogue which is easy to follow. The 'battle of the sexes' theme seems bang up to date, too!

* Runs until Saturday. Box Office: 0870 905 5060.

Published: 20/11/2003