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Theatre review: The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe

08:05 12 July 2012

Taming of the Shrew at the Globe. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Taming of the Shrew at the Globe. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Manuel Harlan

Toby Frow’s production is a captivating feast for the senses, writes Jenisa Altink-Thumbadoo

One of Shakespeare’s more controversial works, The Taming of the Shrew is often criticised as a misogynistic tale that seemingly endorses female subservience and extols the virtues of an obedient wife.

Bianca, the beautiful and highly desired daughter of Baptista Minola, has no end of suitors, but she may not marry until her older sister Katharina is wed. That is easier said than done, for Katharina is an obstinate and obnoxious “shrew” of a woman. Can swaggering Petruchio, seduced by what will be a handsome dowry, tame her wild nature?

The humid air at the Globe on opening night was thick with anticipation, following a farcical opening in which the audience were sworn at, shoved and urinated on. While some speculated whether this local hooligan’s behaviour would result in the show being cancelled, those familiar with the play were left wondering whether Toby Frow’s adaptation could win over a modern audience.

Throughout, Frow astutely exaggerates both the bawdy and the slapstick elements of the play. Bare buttocks, brawling and food fights abound, with the audience roaring along to Pearce Quigley’s sardonic portrayal of Petruchio’s sidekick Grumio and Jamie Beamish’s spirited Tranio. As the story of Bianca and her suitors develops, Sarah MacRae presents an intriguingly spiteful favoured younger sister, while Joseph Timms is charming, if somewhat subdued as her lover Lucentio. Although Katharina’s controversial final speech is delivered in squirm-inducing earnest, Samantha Spiro skilfully manages to present her character as a bitter, rejected woman who chooses to be transformed by love rather than tamed by submission. This is helped in no small part by Simon Paisley Day’s nuanced depiction of Petruchio as a sharp-witted and insightful but rather affable rogue.

The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe is a joyous feast for the senses that held me captivated for the full three hours. Five stars.

* The Taming of the Shrew is at Shakespeare’s Globe until October 13

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