Sandra Carter went along to review Chiltern Shakespeare Company's production of The Taming of the Shrew at the Open Air Theatre, Hall Barn, Beaconsfield. 

What an amazing evening – I’m still buzzing next morning. Turn off the busy A40 onto a beautiful parkland estate, picnic beside the lake or snack in the bar marquee, then find your seat and prepare for a trip to 16th-century Italy.

Before us on the lawn is the set of the pretty town of Padua, visible through a portico, with Baptista’s house and balcony covered in flowers, a fountain to the side, steps up to a (real) tower, and an archway leading out of town topped by a parapet where townsfolk watch goings-on below.

The set is delightful and the atmosphere is created even before the play begins, with a minstrel fiddling, children playing with hoops and ribbons, townsfolk chatting. It’s a chance to admire the impressive costumes before we are assaulted by the character of Katherina – the shrew.

What a girl – and Emily Taylor-Callingham plays her brilliantly. She’s beautiful but feisty, full of energy and also venom, as she fights with family and neighbours alike. Her pretty little sister can’t marry until she does – but who will have Katherina?

Enter Petruchio (played by Jamie Kwasnik), equally handsome, equally feisty, equally determined to be boss – and eager to earn the dowry. It can’t be hard to tame a shrew, can it?

These two are impressive actors, filling the roles perfectly and displaying passion and verve as they fight, scrap, kick and roll on the floor in their battle of wills. Kiss me Kate – will she? – you know the answer.

While these two are superb (call the talent scouts), every one of the cast was excellent in this production by the local amateur dramatic group Chiltern Shakespeare Company. They exploit the humour and make the Shakespearian language accessible through great acting.

Production is brilliantly creative with lots of humorous and quirky details, and as dusk drew in the lighting grew ever more effective.

Don’t worry about getting wet (though the actors might): the play is performed on the lawn against the backcloth of a high ancient sculpted yew hedge, but the audience sits protected in a specially constructed auditorium on raked seating. You might like to bring a blanket.

Chiltern Shakespeare Company is to be congratulated on another superb production. The play runs from June 10 to 13 and 17 to 20, with Saturday afternoon matinees. Book online at