Shakespeare’s Globe, London
28th September, 2012
My second trip to the Globe in two days, but this time it was to see Shakespeare’s comedy that inspired the film 10 Things I Hate About You. Again, I was one of the Groundlings and the stage looked a little larger than it did for Twelfth Night as well having a large ramp that came down into the audience, centre stage. Once again, the audience, full of tourists and theatre fans, were looking forward to an afternoon of Shakespeare, despite the rain!
The induction saw a football hooligan version of Christopher Sly storm the stage through the audience, attacking theatre stewards on the way whilst actors looked on from the tiring house, before he urinated over an audience member and then collapsed. Apparently, in some performances, members of the audience climbed onto the stage assisting with what they thought to be a real intrusion.
Some critics said that Toby Frow’s production was a simple one as it didn’t fully explore the differences in gender struggles between the shrewish Katherine and the seemingly misogynistic Petruchio. However, as it was my first time seeing the play, I thoroughly enjoyed Frow’s production which drew out the comedy in the script.
Samantha Spiro is perfect as the feisty, independent Katherine. She knocks down doors, screams at her adversaries and karate chops Petruchio. Her relationship with her younger, more favoured sister (played by the blonde, innocent-looking Sarah MacRae) wonderfully brings out how Baptista disfavours Katherine just because she doesn’t conform to what society wants by refusing to be controlled by a man.
Simon Paisley-Day’s Petruchio is very full on: he rips off his clothes in an almost-bestial way, starves Katherine of food by stuffing meat into his mouth and embarrasses her with nonchalant attitudes at their wedding. He is Katherine’s nightmare man, but the audience can tell that, in one way, they are made for each other. By having Petruchio drag Katherine through the audience when walking back to Padua before asking her for a kiss which she momentarily denies, the humour is brought out in ‘Right, let us go back then’ as the audience get an idea of how far they have travelled – which is heightened by the muddy, tired state of Katherine.
The two leads are supported by an excellent company, including Pearce Quigley’s Balderick-like Grumio who kicks a bucket every time Petruchio mentions his dead father. Katherine’s last speech is particularly interesting as she delivers it with complete sincerity which is a shock to the audience as it implies that she has now succumbed to the patriarchal society in which Petruchio’s dominance as a husband lies. Perhaps this is an unsatisfying end of the play as she has completely changed from her individual, funny nature that we saw in her before she went to Petruchios ‘training school’. However, Spiro’s sly smiles and the sheer force and intelligence that she gave Katherine’s initial personality hints at something lying beneath this surrendering to man. Perhaps, after all, she will be just as fierce as she was before.
The Taming of the Shrew ran at Shakespeare’s Globe until 13th October, 2012.