The Taming of the Shrew is often disparaged as the most misogynistic of William Shakespeare’s comedies. The Shrew of the title is Katherina, or Kate, the older daughter of Baptista Minola, a gentleman of Padua, who insists she must be married off before her sister Bianca. The trouble is that Kate terrifies men. But thenshe meets Petruchio, a young man visiting from Verona, who woos her and then bends her to his will. His tactics include depriving her of food and a hot bath, and taunting her with gifts of clothes, which he then whisks away again. There is a certain crude logic to his behaviour: much as he enjoys Kate’s fieriness, he is too pro-active and charismatic a figure to ever tolerate an abusive spouse. Much has been made of what Shakespeare intended by describing such a marriage. It was probably simple: he recognised the universal appeal of an alpha male hero, particularly at the box office.
London’s Globe Theatre put an extra twist on the drama by employing an all-female cast. Seven women each perform several roles, hamming it up as men and women, and even, in one instance, a young man playing a woman. They play instruments and dance, and under Joe Murphy’s direction, they milk the play for laughs.
They are certainly not short of opportunity. The Taming of the Shrew revels in word play, puns and proverbs. It is no coincidence that Petruchio wins Kate not with his wealth or achievements, but his ready wit.
Kate Lamb captures with admirable ease the transformation of Kate from termagant to obedient wife, while Leah Whitaker’s flamboyant take on Petruchio ensures the audience sympathises with a character whose antics would otherwise seem reprehensible.
The Taming of the Shrew is performed in front of an old-style red and white theatre tent in the courtyard of the Castle Yard at Kilkenny Design. It begins in daylight, and ends at night, which adds to the sense of a beautiful occasion.
Until Sun, Aug 18