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24 September 2014

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Shirley Henderson as Katherine

Katherine (Shirley Henderson)

Katherine is a workaholic, ball-breaking politician, tipped for the leadership of her party. There's nothing feminine or touchy-feely about her - she's blunt and rude, very unlike her glamorous mother and sister.

Unfortunately for Kate's political ambitions, the electorate like their politicians married. So when eccentric aristocrat Petruchio appears on the scene searching for a wife, he's seems like the perfect answer. But with both of them used to getting their own way, their relationship is bound to be an explosive one.

Shirley Henderson

Interviewed about taking on the role of Katherine Minola, Shirley Henderson revealed that she'd experienced a twinge of doubt.

"I loved the script but I was scared of it as well, because the character just seemed so huge. I was excited by it but I was nervous of it at the same time," she says.

"I've never played anyone who's so high-powered and able – who speaks so fluently and powerfully – and that doesn't necessarily come easily to me. Her concentration is enormous but she's also shockingly vicious, and I wasn't sure how to pull that off."

"I went home and practised speaking the dialogue out loud to myself to get on top of the sound of her voice and her language. She goes from very stroppy to almost childlike very quickly, so I had to work on that. It was actually a lot of fun!" she laughs.

Musing on the character of Kate, Shirley chuckles," You know it's bad when the only date in her diary reads 'Put the bins out'. Her temper and her aggression have left her very lonely. But there is a reason for the madness and there's also a sense of humour there."

"She's very clever and she gets frustrated easily. She gets exasperated by people – especially people like her sister and her mother, who are very shallow, very silly and always talking about clothes and men – and so she alienates them and then that makes her more lonely, more frustrated and more angry. The problem is, no one can get beyond her shell."

But that seems set to change when Katherine meets the eccentric and passionate Petruchio (played by Rufus Sewell), who, much to her chagrin, promptly announces his intention to marry her.

"She finally meets her match," explains Shirley. "They're both horrendous on their own but together they spark and they calm each other down, though it is a bumpy ride..."

Shirley was delighted to work with Rufus again, having co-starred with him in Charles II.

"We work in a similar way and we jump in at the deep end and help each other. I'm not scared to try things out in front of him and he's the same with me. He's a gorgeous, lovely man, full of life and has so much to offer – a real jack-in-a-box," says Shirley, fondly.

Ironically, Shirley was never big on the Bard.

"I wasn't brought up going to the theatre and so Shakespeare was really just part of English class. I did like listening to it – one of our teachers used to speak it out loud to us – but I didn't know that you got up and acted this stuff out properly. I didn't understand how exciting it could be."

She didn't fully get to grips with Shakespeare until she enrolled at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the early Eighties – and even now unselfconsciously declares that she's "not the biggest fan".

"I've done a bit of Shakespeare, not an awful lot, but I really enjoyed doing this," she says.

"It's got the breadth of Shakespeare, the same sort of spirit. You need a lot of energy behind the lines because there are huge speeches and a very demanding tempo. You've got to keep the ball up in the air and that's what my impression of Shakespeare is, too."

  • Get the low-down on Shirley Henderson's life and career »

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