“People describe Shrew as a problem play; I see it as a perfect opportunity to explore pressing issues surrounding gender and relationships – important for us all, especially young people.” – Jacqueline Defferary
Before I really get into the post I just want to say, if you are able to get to London before the end of this month I IMPLORE YOU TO GO AND SEE THIS PRODUCTION OF THE TAMING OF THE SHREW! Whether you are already a Shakespeare fan or fancy giving it a shot, this adaptation is truly for everybody.
So time for a bit of context:
The Taming of the Shrew is one of, if not the most, debated about plays written by Shakespeare due to its supposed portrayal of psychological rape and misogyny. It is believed to be one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, written before 1592, and sees a drunkard named Sly being tricked into believing himself to be a lord and with his “wife” (the Lord’s servant wearing a dress) watches a play for his pleasure. That play within the play follows the relationship of Petruchio, a wealthy and forceful man from Verona, and Katherine, the “devilish Shrew”. Then, if you’re not already confused, you have the subplot of Bianca and her suitors; Gremio, Hortensio, and Lucentio, the latter being a student from Pisa, have all fallen for Kate’s seemingly sweet sister Bianca and the latter two decide to disguise themselves as teachers so that they might be able to woo her, whilst encouraging Petruchio to marry Kate so that they might then be able to marry Bianca. And that’s the basic plot for you!
I’ve been studying The Taming of the Shrew under the umbrella of the comedy genre for English Lit. at school for almost a year now but it had never become alive to me and I rarely found it laugh-out-loud funny. However I adore Shakespeare. ( I mean for my 16th birthday I convinced my parents to let me go see Sonia Friedman’s production of Hamlet!) And as I was down in London for the day anyway due to a ‘Uni Offer Holders day’ I thought I’d see what was on at the Globe, and obviously when I saw it was Shrew I snapped the tickets up immediately despite the fact I had no idea who was directing it, who was starring, or what kind of adaptation it would be. It turned out that it was part of Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank, meaning the adaptation was cut down and created especially for young people, and let me tell you, it was INCREDIBLE!
I believe that Shakespeare in Shrew, rather than supporting the patriarchy, was presenting the power and strength of women even in difficult situations. For me Petruchio’s and Kate’s relationship is an odd sort of ‘true love’ – they recognise each other as an outcast and are just trying to figure out what to do as people who don’t really know how to love. I was thrilled that this was conveyed by Jacqueline Defferary, the director, as well as by Gloria Onitiri and Alex Gaumond performing the roles of Kate and Petruchio. I have to say these two actors are absolutely PHENOMENAL, they showed the depth and subtleties of their complex characters beautifully, they have definitely become my favourite portrayals of the two! Throughout the play Petruchio and Kate are shown as equals in wit and strength and it’s made clear that she tames him as much as he tames her; through things such as the use of rope during the Sun/Moon scene. (I do love that scene: “Then God be blessed, it is the blessèd sun”!)
Something else I adored about this adaptation was the sheer originality of it. I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but the induction is used in such a clever way, with some funny nods to current political issues, there were songs which I did not expect and were hilariously ironic in context of the play, there was use of mirrors to distort images and to reflect light around the stage, there were puppets (which are used in the final scene and makes it so brutal, intense and emotional I could have cried!) and some nods to the Godfather, which were hilarious! There was also some kind of contemporary dance thrown in too which again really reflects the relationship of Petruchio and Kate in an incredibly interesting way! Everything was just so inventive, even down to the staging itself! I also have to mention the costumes, in particular Petruchio’s wedding outfit, I just loved it all! I take my hat off to Jacqueline Defferary, Louise Anna Duggan, Kev McCurdy, Sian Williams, Olly Fox and EVERYBODY ELSE!
Very rarely do I come out of the cinema or theatres completely shaken and obsessed by whatever it is I’ve just watched, but I can without doubt add this to that list, and probably bring it right up to the top. I just adored everything about it, my only flaw was that I wish it had been longer, though saying that maybe it would’ve taken away from the chaotic and full-on nature of it which I loved. The cast was so small, many playing two or more roles, but each one was believable, well developed, hilarious and ALIVE!
And that’s what really matters when it comes to Shakespeare, and this wonderfully chaotic production is as alive as it can be!
Gloria Onitiri (Katharine), Alex Gaumond (Petruchio), James Backway (Lucentio), Alex Mugnaioni (Hortensio/ Vincentio), Layo-Christina Akinlude (Bianca/Female Usher), Michael Fenner (Baptista), Samuel Martin (Tranio), Clive Mendus (Gremio), Richard James-Neale (Grumio/ Merchant), Viss Elliot Safavi (Widow/ Tailor), YOU GUYS ARE GREAT, THANK YOU!