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The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe | Review

The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe is a rollicking production likely crafted with the tourist audience of this summer season in mind. The ever-present knock about physical humour with a flavour of the absurd may be viewed as fun connecting with those whose first language is not English and yet wish to see Shakespeare played at this stunning and historic theatre.

The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare's Globe.
The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe.

What is lost however in this show is an emphasis on complexities and language. There’s also the unfortunate impression from the galleries that some of the cast are learning to ‘speak Shakespeare’ while performing to a paying public.  When Shakespeare’s lines are spoken well, they become as clear in meaning as if sunlight is shining down. That does not generally happen here. Never mind, the audience laughs every single time the same single swear word is inserted, prodding them into an irreverent connection with whatever’s going on, which is actually not nothing. Accessibility is important. The accessibility of this production is such however it’s probably better suited for those who aren’t familiar with Shakespeare than for those who are who may be bored.

One of the best Shakespeare speakers is Nigel Barrett as Christopher Sly who happily combines this ability with a larger-than-life presence and great comedic ability. What a memorable, energetic opening he brings to the evening. When everyone present is innocently encouraged to sing along to Delilah, the song about the feelings of a tortured soul who’s murdered his lover. Unfortunately, Nigel Barrett is confined too soon to silence in a playpen for most of the play. Yes, the set contains significant elements of the absurd, as do the costumes. The presence of these initiates questions when introduced but are soon mostly ignored.

Thalissa Teixeira as Katharina successfully portrays a regular modern woman that the modern audience can identify with. One who however finds herself locked into absurd patriarchal power structures in which her character and estimable common sense are regarded with disapproval, requiring even her sense of self to be erased. Katharina’s most effective line is close to the end when she steps out of submission and says, “Can we stop this stupid play?”.

Unfortunately, the interactions between Tranio and Luciano are not wholly successful and do create holes in the pace, focus and narrative of both acts. The second act however improves as the horror of the theme of Shakespeare’s play reaches fruition. This being that the worse a husband treats his wife the better, training her in this way into submission. This chills. Most especially in the moments when Petruchio. the husband, well-played as a deliberately unimpressive individual by Andrew Leung, finally demands Katharina kiss him and she does despite her distaste. There’s no suggestion in this production of a sexual attraction between the two of them or that their conflict creates a connection as is often presented but which dilutes and sanitises the disturbing central theme of this play.

What is described here is coercive control, about which there is an excellent essay by Professor Marianne Hester in the programme. That this production continues to roll out humour which keeps many in the audience laughing anyway is a cleverly crafted juxtaposition by director Jude Christian. There’s another terrific article in the programme about Theories of Laughter by Professor Bridget Escolme. It’s a programme worth reading.

The music composed by Corin Buckeridge and performed from the musician’s gallery by five musicians, is enjoyable and vital, creating atmosphere as well as leading the way for the cast into jolly absurdity when needed. There’s a jig at the end.

Some members of the audience left the theatre declaring the production fun, while others were unhappy about the lack of emphasis on Shakespeare’s language and complexities. Many will however speculate afterwards about Shakespeare’s true feelings on the theme he was presenting in apparent approval, taking into account all we know of him, his era and his work.

Be aware if you book a standing ticket the show is two hours in duration (excluding the interval) and the stage is quite high. For the wooden seats under cover, you do have the option of booking a cushion.

3 Star Review

Review by Marian Kennedy

The cast comprises Matthew Ashforde as Ensemble/Cover, Nigel Barrett as Christopher Sly/Gremio, John Cummins as Biondello, Lizzie Hopley as Hortensio, Tyreke Leslie as Tranio, Andrew Leung as Petruchio, Sophie Mercell as Bianca, Syakira Moeladi as Ensemble/Cover, Jamie-Rose Monk as Vincentio, Eloise Secker as Grumio, Simon Startin as Baptista, Yasmin Taheri as Lucentio, and Thalissa Teixeira as Katherina.

The show is directed by Jude Christian, designed by Rosie Elnile, with Corin Buckeridge as Composer, Priya Patel Appleby as 2024 Globe Resident Assistant Director and Emma Brunton as Movement & Puppetry Director. Haruka Kuroda is Fight and Intimacy Director, with Liv Morris as Dramaturg.

Lucentio is determined to win the beautiful Bianca’s hand in marriage. When her father declares that it will only happen once her older sister Katharina is wedded, the competition to mould the fiercely independent Katharina into obedient wifely material begins.

The front runner is larger-than-life Petruchio. But with Katharina as proud as she is, it’s going to take shocking levels of manipulation to win her as his bride…

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
26 June to 26 October 2024
Shakespeare’s Globe

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