Wednesday, March 20, 2019

'The Taming of The Shrew' by William Shakespeare

20 March 2019

On Tuesday we were at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to see Justin Audibert’s new RSC production of ‘The Taming of The Shrew’. This misogynistic play is particularly difficult to carry off: previously the most successful version I had seen was the Shakespeare’s Globe On Tour open air production, directed by Joe Murphy (reviewed here in July 2013), which showed the relationships in a new light by having all the parts played by women. Justin Audibert has created something even more interesting by reversing the gender of every character, setting the pay in a matriarchal society where Baptista Minola wants to marry off her sons to the highest bidder. Her older son, still called ‘Katherine’ (played by Joseph Arkley), is the sharp-tongued shrew who meets his match in the swaggering Petruchia (Claire Price) – determined to woo a rich husband. It’s a very funny production: the gender reversal allows us to enjoy the comedy of the play without it being quite so uncomfortable. Hannah Clark’s amazing costumes give the women enormous dresses that dominate each scene, emphasising their power in this society and allowing them (literally in one case!) to glide across the stage. There are brilliant comic performances from Sophie Stanton as Gremia, Laura Elsworthy as Trania and Amy Trigg as Biondella. I felt we didn’t see enough of Joseph Arkley’s Katherine in the early part of the play: we needed more evidence of his shrewishness before he is tamed. But this is clearly Petruchia’s play and Claire Price is wonderful – a bird’s nest of red hair, a wicked grin and a physical dominance of the stage (and of Katherine) creating a fascinating and compelling character.

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