A tale that has a million feminists turning in their graves, the Taming of the Shrew does not resonate with contemporary sensibilities. This leads to the obvious dilemma of how best to deliver it. Director Toby Frow decides to play it straight and it works well.
Reminding us that this is a play within a play, a group of jesting nobles decide to put on a show for the pleasure of the drunkard, Christopher Sly. This framing device allows for one of the best, if most vulgar, openings we’ve seen for a while. We advise against standing too close to the front of the stage.
Setting aside the misogynistic elements, there is a great deal of fun to be had. The tale is above all a farce, with the standard mix of mistaken identities, love rivalries and cross dressing. Red thongs may not have made an appearance in Shakespeare’s day, but we admire Simon Paisley Day’s (Petruchio) bravery on a rainy, somewhat chilly, evening. The comedy is non-stop; some puns, such as the metaphorical kicking of the bucket, have the audience in stitches.
There is something fundamentally distasteful about seeing the spirit of an independent minded woman broken and Kate’s final speech, delivered without irony, grates. Despite this, we have to admit that Samantha Spiro (Kate) and Simon Paisley Day (Petruchio) work excellently together, bringing energy and passion to the stage.
There are very strong performances across the board, notably Samantha Spiro, who shows some impressive and spirited fighting skills. We also like the ostensibly submissive Bianca (Sarah MacRae), who indicates that something edgier lies beneath that angelic exterior.
This production is the Globe at its best: feisty and bold it draws in the audience at every opportunity. Brave this summer’s weather and pay a visit.