The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s more problematic plays, but I always enjoy seeing productions of it to see how it is handled. I headed to the Globe to see an all-female production, which really intrigued me. In addition, I attended the midnight matinee, which is always good fun: seeing Shakespeare under the stars is amazing.
A large striped tent dominated the middle of the stage, suggesting a circus: this helped to give the impression of a conscious performance. Shrew is a play-within-a-play, which I’ve always suspected was Shakespeare’s way of distancing himself somewhat from the excessively misogynistic attitudes within, and this is emphasised here. In addition, Kate Lamb, who played Katerina, also played the drunkard Christopher Sly at the beginning, suggesting that there was an element of comeuppance to Petruchio’s treatment of her. Lamb was excellent in her role, as was Leah Whitaker as Petruchio, though my favourites were Kathryn Hunt as Baptista Minola and the actress playing Grumio, who kept singling out members of the audience and winking at them.
Though the cast as a whole were excellent, I didn’t think that the all-female dimension added much to the story, as I had hoped. The actresses still played male characters as male, and I think more could have been done with this aspect of the play.
Last year’s Shrew at the Globe saw Samantha Spiro play a fiesty, strong Katerina. Kate Lamb’s interpretation is more subtle, and she appears genuinely subdued during her final speech; this scene was rather difficult to watch. Katerina is such a fantastic character early in the play and it was sobering to see her brought down at the end, especially considering the earlier tone of the piece. I think it would have benefited from more of a coherent vision.
This amusing and thought-provoking production, directed by Joe Murphy, is on tour in the UK and then internationally. Catch it if you can.