Sunday, 19 June 2016

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

I've never seen 'The Taming of the Shrew' on stage before so when The Globe announced it I had to buy tickets. It's not a favourite play but it's by Will, so it's worth seeing. For this production the story is set in Ireland at the time of the 1916 rising to commemorate the event but, other than the accents and some rebel songs, you'd never know it (or at least I didn't). By coincidence, the Bolshoi Ballet is also offering us their version of the play at the Royal Opera House over the summer and I've booked to see that as well.

As ever with Mr Shakespeare, there are various stories going on within the play but the one we're most engaged with is with the main characters of Katherina (Kate, the 'shrew') and Petruchio (the 'tamer'). The central tale is of Kate who speaks her mind and isn't keen on marriage and her sister Bianca who wants to marry as soon as possible, presumably to leave her father's house. Bianca has suitors but the men are all scared of Kate. Unfortunately for Bianca, as the younger sister, she can't marry until her older sister is safely wedlocked. Enter Petruchio who hears the men talking about Katherina and then vows that he will marry her to make the way clear for the men to woo Bianca. And so he does.

So far there's some good give and take with Kate giving as good as she gets but the second half shows the breaking of Kate as she's degraded and made to suffer until her spirit is broken.  It's this that really gets to the misogyny of the play and it's difficult to get it right - I'm not sure there is any 'right' with this play. It is rather unpleasant to watch and the final scenes when Petruchio allows Kate to visit her home for her sister's wedding are equally fraught when he orders her about like a slave to demonstrate to the men how it's done. And Kate submits.

Leaving aside the more unpleasant aspects of the play, I liked this production. I loved the costumes (and I'd happily wear some of the jackets and trousers myself) and the staging was clever, using both levels of the Globe stage in a way I haven't seen before. There was some lovely comic acting as well as more serious scenes. Aoife Duffin was a stand-in for the lead actress who was off sick and I thought she delivered an excellent Kate (I think she's now taken the role so good for her) with Genevieve Hulme-Beaman as her sister Bianca. I was less keen on Edward MacLiam as Petruchio whose accent was so thick at times that I found it hard to follow what he was saying or, rather, shouting - he seemed to be playing it as a stereotype loudmouth, drunken Oirishman which only partially worked for me. Having said that, I enjoyed the production and am pleased I've now seen 'Shrew' on the stage. It's on until the start of August so there are plenty of opportunities to see it.

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