Review: THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, Shakespeare's Globe

Jude Christian's new production playfully inverts Shakespeare's misogyny

By: Jun. 19, 2024
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Review: THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, Shakespeare's  Globe
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The Taming of the ShrewSurely The Taming of the Shrew is an unproblematic problematic play? We can all broadly agree Shakespeare’s gender-based comedy isn’t exactly a feminist masterpiece – Katherina, the titular shrew, is bullied and gaslighted into becoming Petruchio’s dutiful wife. But it’s unproblematically problematic. There’s little debate to be had: we can all agree that it is severely sexist.

So how to breach the question of performing it in the 21st century?

Jude Christian’s ruthlessly self-aware production is a blunt instrument firing on all conceptual cylinders to rip the morality inside out. The gerrymandering works to an extent, but it’s rarely more than the sum of its parts.

Christian’s Padua is a surreal soft play area. A giant teddy bear presides slouching over the stage; think the plush world inhabited by the Teletubbies by way of Luis Buñuel. Only Thalissa Teixeira’s brilliantly spiky Katherina is in on the act. Aware of the sugar-rushing weirdness throbbing around her and of the performance itself, her marriage and ‘taming’ by Petruchio, is inverted – she is cruelly dulled into quivering submission, rather than blossoming into a dutiful wife.

By the climax she clambers to break free, both from patriarchal chains and from the confines of the performance. In a viscerally fourth wall shattering moment she pleads with the audience unable to bare the torment, a self-conscious twist on the play’s framing as a play within a play. It’s a brutal moment that jars gorgeously with the rest the cuddly whimsy. Like chomping on a slice of vanilla sponge only to find a razor blade nestled within. What does it make us? Our gaze is mirrored back – do we become come complicit in her suffering?

I wish it probed the dynamics of misogyny deeper. Andrew Leung’s Petruchio is formulaically foul, strutting with peacock arrogance and savouring each slimy syllable. Perhaps the moral inversion is too predictable here: he can only be rendered a one-dimensional sadist in order to secure the reversal of Katherina’s perspective. Why is he allowed to get away with it? What lies beyond his nastiness?

The Taming of the Shrew

The surrealist elements are eyeball-melting but overworked. Puppets, scooters, and a trampoline don’t justify themselves beyond visual distractions. Gremio and Hortensio, babbling potential suitors for Katherina’s younger sister, are bulbous heads protruding from Nigel Barrett and Lizzie Hopleys’ stomachs, imagery incongruously plundered from the Garden of Earthly Delights. As funny as it is, the silliness is baggy, clumsily interfering with the performances.

Bucketloads of genuine charm strings it together. Tyreke Leslie owns Tranio with buzzy bona fide glee. The live band conjure electricity to charge the production with sitcom wackiness. The Taming of the Shrew is not easily translated for the Modern Stage. But there’s plenty to admire here despite its flaws. 

The Taming of the Shrew plays at the Globe until 26 October

Photo Credits: Ellie Kurttz


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