Here's a rollicking and robust interpretation of an early Shakespearean comedy, given novelty value by the all-female cast. Often viewed as inherently misogynistic, The Taming of the Shrew can be played as virtually straightforward farce with Petruchio taming his outspoken wife in the most patronising fashion, or it can be viewed more subtly as an equal battle of wills. Director or 'Master of play' Phyllida Lloyd has apparently opted for the former emphasis with its fertile possibilities for broad comedy.
The ever-excellent Janet McTeer is the swaggering, amorous Petruchio, determined to snare himself a wealthy wife whatever her imperfections. Setting his matrimonial sights on the waspish Katherina he resolves upon a regime of stark humiliation that he hopes will bring about submission and subordination to his will. Picking scraps from the table, forced to endure dirt and deprivation, Kathryn Hunter's Katherina is a diminutive, wiry figure who clearly becomes adept at learning her new role whilst never really sacrificing her personality. The pivotal speech in which she has to echo Petruchio's fluctuating comments on the sun and moon emphasises the canny strategy she adopts for survival. The final banquet scene consolidates this impression as Katherina's overt supplication to her husband's 'superiority' soon evolves into a campaigning tirade that ruffles Petruchio's complacency.
The female cast clearly enjoy satirising male vanity, some achieving this most effectively in speech and mannerism. McTeer's arrogant yet likeable 'hero' is pitch-perfect and Amanda Harris is again notable as the servant Tranio comically promoted to noble status. With a defter touch this could have been all the more enjoyable but nonetheless it brings the Globe's season to a witty and effervescent conclusion.
Photo by John Tramper
Notices from the popular press....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Female Shrew vaults the gender gap but has no fresh insight." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, "This Shrew brims with energy and invention." PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE says, "Janet McTeer...an outstanding performance..Unfortunately, one cannot say the same for Kathryn Hunter's Shrew." JANE EDWARDES for TIME OUT says director Phyllida Lloyd has made the play "harder to watch". LYN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, "There is some terrific fun in guying the rituals and mannerisms of men, and Hunter and McTeer are astonishing." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "A revelation and a comic delight." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "Playful, lively....But it’s also mischievous, teasing and sometimes more cynical than the Bard would have wished."
External links to full reviews from newspapers