The Taming of the Shrew

William Shakespeare
Shakespeare's Globe
Shakespeare's Globe

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Thalissa Texieira as Katherina Credit: Helen Murray
Andrew Leung as Petruchio Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Yasmin Taheri as Lucentio Credit: Ellie Kurttz

A drunken man wanders across the Globe Theatre yard happily singing the Tom Jones song about the woman Delilah murdered by a jealous man. We guess this must be Christopher Sly (Nigel Barrett), the character starting our show. But he goes too far, taking a piece of clothing from a woman standing in the audience and pouring part of his drink over her.

He drunkenly walks onto the stage leaving the woman looking irritated, trying to dry herself with some tissue. Suddenly, she grabs a friend's drink, marches onto the stage, chucks it into Sly’s face and then rejoins her companions in the yard.

Many in the surprised audience applauded the woman fighting back. It was a good way to open Shakespeare’s problematic play. It let us know whose side the production was on.

As some of the company popped Sly into a cage from which he was to watch the play within a play, the cast read out which characters they were to play and recruited the woman from the yard to play the part of Katherina (Thalissa Texieira). As a warning not to cause them any problems, she is head-butted by the stage manager, leaving a huge bruise that lasts the length of the show.

The production, directed by Jude Christian, sticks to the basic storyline and most of the text but makes the stylistic choice of puppets to suggest the way behaviour, often performative, is shaped by society. Like a costume, it is worn because the world insists that is the way we should behave.

The men wear around their stomachs the face of authority whose mouth they manipulate with their hands as they talk. Bianca (Sophie Mercell) speaks holding a cage with a doll puppet inside until she rebels against the social order and nips off leaving the cage behind.

Resting at the back of the stage is a huge, white, fluffy teddy bear through which the cast enters and exits. The fluent, confident company never seems particularly distracted by the Toyland set and costumes. It’s an entertaining production that takes the trouble to demonstrate it is on the side of women.

Thalissa Texieira is an impressive Katherina, always generating our sympathy whether she is objecting to Petruchio or appearing to concede to him in her closing speech. At one point, she even steps out of character to insist she has had enough of this, only for that to prompt the stage manager to take out a gun and shoot one of the women dead.

Andrew Leung’s Petruchio is consistently abusive to his servants and Katherina, making it clear that his objective is "to wive it wealthily in Padua". The character has authority without charm, and it isn't easy to imagine Katherina will be drawn to him.

Not only does he deprive her of food and sleep, but he claims there are no clothes that suit her, so she is left with a sheet to wear on her travels. However, in the final scene, she appears, perhaps mischievously, in the full-body costume of a shrew and, from the look she gives Petruchio, we know the story of their power relationship is not yet over.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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