The Taming of the Shrew

Theatre, Shakespeare
 (© Marc Brenner)
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© Marc BrennerAmy Conroy (Haberdasher), Aoife Duffin (Katherine) and Genevieve Hulme-Beaman (Bianca)
 (© Marc Brenner)
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© Marc BrennerAoife Duffin (Katherine)
 (© Marc Brenner)
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© Marc BrennerEdward MacLiam (Petruchio) and Aoife Duffin (Katherine)
 (© Marc Brenner)
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© Marc Brenner
 (© Marc Brenner)
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© Marc BrennerAoife Duffin (Katherine)
 (© Marc Brenner)
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© Marc BrennerHelen Norton (Grumio) and Edward MacLiam (Petruchio)
 (© Marc Brenner)
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© Marc BrennerGenevieve Hulme-Beaman (Bianca)

Rising star director Caroline Byrne directs an Irish-set 'Shrew'

'The Taming of the Shrew' returns to Shakespeare's Globe in March 2017. This review is from the 2016 run.

You may have heard of William Shakespeare, he’s quite famous. But does that mean we should stick his plays on stages in 2016 even if they are sexist relics? In the past I’ve said no, but then I watched Caroline Byrne’s production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ at the Globe. Taking up new artistic director Emma Rice’s gauntlet to make adventurous work, Byrne has relocated the play to Ireland and the Easter Rising of 1916, and created something astonishingly powerful.

Putting the play in this context turns it into a tale of the bold resistance and inevitable breaking of women struggling against patriarchal oppression. It also allows us to see the spirit of defiance of the women from this period of political turbulence, whose equal rights were guaranteed in the Proclamation of the Republic that accompanied the Easter Rising, but were then rapidly trampled on.

Aoife Duffin’s Katherine, exuding ferocity and tenderness by turns, spits in men’s faces and would rather read a newspaper than have a bloke crack on to her. Her presence is so huge and unapologetically independent that her subjugation in marriage to Petruchio is all the more appalling when it comes. 

Here, Petruchio becomes a serial gaslighter. ‘It shall be what o’clock I say it is’ is not some cheeky, flirty bants but a way to make a woman doubt her confidence and intellect. For their first kiss, she licks his face; second time round, she might as well be in a coma. Her lack of consent is always apparent.

Byrne uses beautiful, startling images to make clear the transfer of power from women to men. At one point Baptista is caught up in a giant skipping rope; later, Katherine in her wedding dress is immersed in a black lake, then lies silent and broken across an empty bed frame on a mound of rubble. 

If it sounds dark, there is still plenty of fun to be had, and there’s an expert balance between tragedy and comedy, with Imogen Doel, cross-cast as Tranio, bringing some major lols. 

What is essentially a misogynist curio here becomes a call for empathy, compassion and a more progressive way for men and women to live alongside one another. This production is masterly, elegiac and full of force – entirely in control of its vision, it is true to Shakespeare’s text while bearing witness to the lives of women in history.

BY: TESSIE JOHNSON

Posted:

Average User Rating

4.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:6
  • 4 star:5
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
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It's a problematic piece, but if you see this version, you may feel that all the fun has been taken out. Yes, there are a few wonderfully executed jokes and delightful music, as well as powerful acting, but the production is far more of a tragedy than a farce. The second half had us wincing in pain as Katherine experienced agonies of despair and mistreatment. It was hard to watch, and the wrenching lesson to the audience seemed extraordinarily heavy-handed and very probably not what the Bard had in mind when he wrote the play.

Tastemaker

As a Shakespearean scholar and teacher of his plays, I often approach this play warily, as students and other scholars immersed in gender theory now define the play narrowly only in that context. But this Globe production reminds us first of all that the play is a farce and that inequality in Padua (and 1916 Ireland, in which the production is set) can be due to class, not just gender. This production gives the male servant roles to women who deftly handle slapstick comedy better than the male actors in male comic roles. Imogen Doel as Tranio steals the show, and Aoife Duffin is such a strong and powerful Katharine that her Petruchio Edward MacLiam often resorts to shouting at her, rather than interacting with her.


The ultimate judgement about this play usually comes with the Kate's delivery of her final speech on women being submissive to husbands. If she is serious, we are troubled; if she's is mocking, we feel vindicated that she has only learned to perform publicly a submissive role while promising to be assertive in private. Duffin does something entirely new, and without giving anything away, let's just say that she's not the one who is humiliated in public or private at the end of the play. The Irish songs of independence resonate throughout, although the loss of Petruchio's final lines of seeming reconciliation with his wife seem jarring. But perhaps national independence and reconciliation mean more here than those on a personal level.

tastemaker

The Globe never fails to impress with its productions and this was no exception.  The Irish setting somehow seemed authentic, the acting was superb and there were so many laugh out loud moments.  The first half in particular I felt like I was laughing the whole way through and the way the actors played off one another was thoroughly enjoyable.  The musical was also excellent (as usual) and really enhanced the already captivating atmosphere.
The only negative point I could make is regarding the play itself.  Having never seen it before nor read any synopsis beforehand I was slightly alarmed by the second half.  Without wanting to give too much of a spoiler the play is about a man trying to "tame" the 'shrewishness" behaviour of a women.  At times it felt slightly abusive and I came away not quite sure if it was a tragedy or a comedy - although maybe the fact that it made me question this is the point?  It certainly sparked a lot of discussion on the way home.


I was a Globe virgin. Yet having done a theatre tour during the winter months & being told by my enthusiastic guide that to see Shakespeare performed there is a unique & magical experience it was top of my summers must-do list. I have to say I completely concur! My expectations were low, I'm not a natural Shakespeare aficionado & have been known to doze off during previous attempts to connect with the bard. However this performance blew me away. It was a natural fit to set it in 1916 Ireland & the trad musicians really added to the atmosphere. The cast are uniformly fantastic & engage with the audience on a personal level, the comedy is truly physical & although the depiction of domestic abuse & female oppression is disturbing especially in these modern times it is a truly mesmerising production. I look forward to returning again, I think I've finally got the playwright's magic!

Tastemaker

Putting aside the enjoyable novelty of seeing a show at midnight, this is a brilliant performance of Taming of the Shrew. I'll be honest, I don't actually have anything to compare it to unless you count the film 10 Thing I hate about you but I know a good play when I see one, literally.

This is an all Irish production which is apparent from the Irish accents and distinctly Irish fiddlers but this does not make the play any less authentic.

The acting is brilliant throughout the show with Aaron Heffernan playing the perfect love struck pursuer Lucentio, Aoife Duffin is wickedly sharp as the quick witted and strong spirited Katherine and Imogen Doel is brilliantly funny as the cheeky Tranio although the character was a little vulgar at times.

The play is laugh out loud funny in parts although I'll admit that the brutal treatment of Katherine by her husband did make me uncomfortable at times but it would not be Shakespeare if it was all sweetness and light.



tastemaker

I've been lucky to get tickets for the midnight performance of Taming of the Shrew at the Shakespeare's globe and it was FANTASTIC.

Despite the fact that you might struggle a bit to go back home after the play, it is so worth going to the midnight show!

The atmosphere seems quite different from the day performance, first of all because of the darkness (the Shakespeare's globe in Southbank is an open theatre so the weather and the time of the day make a difference)

Then, everybody seem to think the same thing: "Super excited, it's 12pm and I just arrived at the theatre for a 2 hours and half play... Hang on...!?"

This is exactly the London I love! No time for bed, too many great things to do/discover!!!

The show itself is fab. The sets are quite simple but work really well. There's quite a few scenes with a lot of actors on stage, the whole performance is very dynamic so falling asleep should not be possible! Also I found both Aoife Duffin and Edward MacLiam (playing Katherine and Petruccio) extremely impressive, juggling neatly with exuberance and madness.

Almost forgot to mention the super duper musicians playing live music during the show...

Absolutely brilliant.

More than a box to tick it is a wonderful experience not to be missed.

tastemaker

What a magnificent night at the Shakespeare's Globe. It was such an incredible experience to be present at the first Midnight Matinee show of the summer. The Taming of the Shrew started precisely at 11:59pm and the Shakespeare's Globe was filled with people excited, but very anxious to experience a show in an opened air theatre. The stage, actors and the costume were completely stunning. We had such a huge laugh throughout the show. It is casted by an Irish-set of incredibly talented actors and actresses that gave us pure drama, humor and excitement. Sure it was funny with a lot of jokes, but they display real intellectual results in the performance. The fascinating interaction with the actors and the audience felt so real and it put a huge smile throughout this beautiful late night evening. For me the actress wearing the gorgeous white wedding gown stole the show, her suffering, the way she acted was impeccable and there was a moment in the stage where she went into this hole filled with muddy water. A big must see show, you will have lots of fun. #TOTastemaker Lots of love MD.

tastemaker

As ever the Globe is a great venue and the £5 tickets an absolute bargain. I didn't know the story and found it quite hard to follow at times, the addition of Irish accents to Shakespearean language does not make it easier!! The comedy and audience interaction was great, and the lead actress gave a really heart felt performance. Not one of the best plays I've seen at the Globe, but still worth a visit for a fiver!

Tastemaker

What a stunning place to see a show........I've meant to go here for years but not made it before. It really is magical and, atlhough not the original of course, it still takes you back in time.........

As for this version of Shakepeare's Taming of the Shrew, told 'under the stars' at a midnight performance, I'm afraid it didn't have the same magicall effect on me that the theatre has.

The acting of the show was superb - the main actress in particular, especially her haunting singing, which send a shiver down your spine. But I just couldn't abide by the comedy - it's just not my cup of tea. I also had a lot of trouble following the script. It's hard enough understanding Shakespeare as it is, without adding a very strong accent on top. It was the main character I had trouble following and it meant that whilst I got the main drift of what was going on, I lost a lot of the detail.

I found some of the comic interaction with audience brilliant and daring and really laughed at certain points. The music was lovely and I certainly felt drawn into the main character's plight. The actors on stage gave their most energetic and wonderful performances, I just think the style - which was quite slap-stick - is not for me.   

Tastemaker

This was a fantastic production full of energy with a fantastic cast, and what better place to see Shakespeare's than in the Globe! 

I attended the midnight performance, and with the near silence of the city and dark skies above it felt almost as if we had been transported back in time during the traditional prelude, and the musicians were incredible as was their accompaniment throughout the performance.
As for the play itself the setting has had a bit of a twist in being relocated to Ireland at the time of the Easter Rising, which works fantastically well but could lead to mild confusion depending on your familiarity with the play in it's true format, but regardless it's worth it. There are also numerous quirky production updates and an incredible slowing and speeding up of time sequence which was incredibly staged, and totally brilliant. The same can also be said of the costumes and sets. 
All in all a mesmerising and faultless production; miss it, miss out!
tastemaker

Shakespeare's globe is the perfect location on the southbank and it is one of he most beautiful buildings in London. The midnight performance bought the show to lif and the actors had high energy levels for playing the second show of the evening.

The humour at times was slightly pantomime, but was perfectly timed and kept the audience entertained. I personally didn't like all the sexual jokes and the modern gestures. As it didn't fit with the the venue or the costumes.

But it was a very entertaining evening of Shakespeare in a venue I alway love to visit.

Tastemaker

Absolutely wonderful.  Such a clever adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play, bringing it up to date somehow.  I agree with Paula below that I walked away feeling nothing but sorrow and pity for Kate after her 'taming'.  She was such a strong and powerful character and the final Kate we saw was a completely different person.  There was laughter throughout to break up the stronger scenes.  Tranio presenting many of the comedic moments.  I will definitely go back to see it again, as with all Shakespeare plays I always think there are so many little details I miss along the way!  

tastemaker

Due to unforeseen circumstance the lead roles of Kate and Bianca were read by different actresses and this impacted the play somewhat.  However, I was still thoroughly impressed by the play, the actors and the director.  The idea of setting this is Ireland with a hint of a backdrop of the Easter Risings is cleverly done.  This play is often considered to be a comedy, but you are left questioning whether the taming/breaking of Kate is really a tragedy.  There are still plenty of laughs and this is a very entertaining play, which I recommend going to watch.


Absolutely Fabulous play, Great performance by the actors, fantastic artistic choice by the director to portray the abuse of the 'shrew'. Sensitive, funny, dramatic. Just Fantastic