Bogdanov’s provocative modern-dress production emphasised Padua's patriarchal society and Petruchio's cruelty towards Katherina.

Two men sit on a static motocycle, the driver is bearded and the pillion passenger wears a white crash helmet
Petruchio (Jonathan Pryce) and Grumio (David Suchet), 1978, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Photo by Joe Cocks Studio Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images

A Sly Start

The production's opening prologue was so convincing that on more than one occasion, members of the audience left the auditorium to call the police! Once the house-lights went down, a drunk in the audience - later revealed to be Christopher Sly - started a commotion, then rampaged onto the stage and destroyed the picturesque set.

The rest of the play was Sly's dream - with actor Jonathan Pryce doubling as Petruchio and Paola Dionisotti as Katherina. The action took place with the initial scenery ripped back to reveal bare walls and metalwork.

Cruel Intentions

Petruchio then systematically set about demolishing Katherina, much to the discomfort of the audience. The production avoided tenderness and love, instead focusing on the uglier aspects of the plot and surrounding those with farcial business. Katherina (Paola Dionisotti) delivered her speech of wifely duty in a toneless, lifeless voice. Petruchio (Jonathan Pryce) looked ashamed of what he had done but this did not stop him pocketing his winnings on his way out.

Award Winning

The brilliantly inventive production won Michael Bogdanov the 1979 Olivier Award for Best Director.


Chris Dyer's design literally brought the house down as the picturesque pastel-painted set, seen by the audience as they took their seats, was completely destroyed by Sly in an ten-minute drunken rampage. This violent iconoclastic act revealed modern ladders and scaffolding, echoing director Bogdanov's emphasis on brutality and deliberately challenging the audience's preconceptions.

FOCUS ON A SCENE: Act 3 Scene 2

"Such a mad marriage never was before"  Gremio

Scene summary: Katherina and the wedding guests wait for Petruchio. Biondello brings news that Petruchio has arrived dressed in shabby inappropriate clothes. Petruchio refuses to change his outfit and insists on seeing Katherina. Gremio describes the wedding and how Petruchio hit the priest and asked for wine. Petruchio refuses to stay for the wedding feast and, despite Katherina's protests, he rushes off with his 'goods'.

In the next gallery you can see relevant prompt book pages with stage directions as well as production photos, revealing how the scene was realised in Michael Bogdanov's 1978 production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Programme cover for The Taming of the Shrew 1978 featuring a drawn image of an Edwardian gentleman holding a short whip and a woman behind bars



Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Conrad Asquith - Haberdasher

Alan Barker - Unnamed parts

Paul Brooke - Baptista Minola

Bill Buffery - Unnamed parts

Ian Charleson - Tranio

Paola Dionisotti - Katherina

Geoffrey Freshwater - Pedant

James Griffin - Tailor

Allan Hendrick - Biondello

Anthony Higgins - Lucentio

David Lyon - Hortensio

Jonathan Pryce - Petruchio, Christopher Sly

George Raistrick - Vincentio

Ian Reddington - Unnamed parts

Catherina Riding - Curtis, Widow

David Suchet - Grumio

Zoe Wanamaker - Bianca

Ruby Wax - Unnamed parts

Paul Webster - Gremio





Director – Michael Bogdanov

Designer – Chris Dyer

Lighting Designer – Chris Ellis

Music – Tony Haynes


The RSC's archive is held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. You can visit the Library and Archives there to look at production related information, including photos, videos of shows and stage management documents:

Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive homepage

You can search the RSC catalogue here: 

RSC performance database

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