Shakespeare's feistiest female is a tough nut to tame, as Marion McMullen finds out.

Watch out for flying fists, well-placed kicks and even the odd headbutt when Lisa Dillon is around.

The Coventry actress flies like a butterfly and stings like a bee – all 5ft 2ins of her.

She is busy getting fighting fit to go several rounds with any man who dares cross her path.

It has meant taking fight training sessions and getting into shape to play the fiery Katharina in The Taming Of The Shrew.

“I looked up ‘shrew’ and it said ‘a small mammal with a big bite’. That’s me – I’ve got a big bite,” she says with a broad grin.

The petite blonde, who played Mary Smith is BBC drama Cranford alongside Dame Judi Dench, Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton, is currently appearing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production with 6ft 3ins tall David Craves as her sparring partner, Petruchio.

“I’d never read the play before so I didn’t realise how physical is was, but Katharina is full-on from the moment she first steps on to the stage,” says Lisa. “I didn’t anticipate how much was involved. I was out of breath the first time I played her.

“I might have to start jogging into the theatre to get my fitness levels up. Katharina just doesn’t stop. I don’t think I’ve ever played anyone so explosive. She’s impulsive and dramatic.

“I’m only 5ft 2ins so I’ve had to work out how to look intimidating. I wasn’t interested in playing a victim and Katharina is certainly not a victim.”

“It’s a warts and all kinds of love,” she explains. “It’s very truthful and honest. They discover a lot about themselves and each other.”

The multi-talented performer was born at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry and her elder sister went to Binley Woods Primary School, but the family moved to Bournemouth when Lisa was just 18 months old.

“We used to go back to Coventry all the time to see relatives and I still have family there,’ she recalls. “I remember visits to Coombe Abbey and Coventry Cathedral and going to see my grandparents on Hipswell Highway. Beautiful memories.

“I think a lot of my family in Coventry are coming to see The Taming Of The Shrew. There are a lot of my cousins in the city.”

Lisa left school with four A-grade A-levels and went to study English and drama at the Royal Holloway, University of London.

She hated it and said she didn’t feel she fitted in until she won a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).

Her childhood was filled with Saturday morning drama classes and drama exams, but she laughingly says she enjoyed acting when she started winning competitions. “I felt normal at drama school,” she adds.

Lisa still has strong links with RADA and has been working on developing a new musical called Secrets Of Soho. Lisa plays piano, guitar and violin and says the musical “feeds my creative side”.

The last tome she appeared in Stratford with the RSC, Lisa was brutally murdered every night – she played Desdemona in Othello and also took the production to London before embarking on an international tour.

This time around, The Taming Of The Shrew sees her as a feisty firecracker ready to speak her mind and be heard in a man’s world.

The romantic comedy is directed by Lucy Bailey and heads off on tour following its Stratford run.

“I haven’t toured in a long time,” says Lisa, whose acting credits also include work with the National Theatre, the Old Vic and and TV’s The Jury.

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge and going to all these different theatres, but it’s going to be strange only spending a short time in Stratford this time.”

So what of the future?

“Lady M would be amazing to play and I’ve always wanted to give my Rosalind, but I’ve seen so many brilliant Rosalinds. I’ve never seen a production of The Taming Of The Shrew, so it’s all new for me.”

* The Taming Of The Shrew runs at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford, until March 31 and tours to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Richmond and Bath. Details at