Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare, RSC Stratford Upon Avon and Touring, 4****; Rod Dungate

Stratford Upon Avon and on Tour

Taming of the Shrew: William Shakespeare



Runs: 3h, one interval, Stratford till 11 August. Then on Tour. Also broadcast performances in cinemas, bookable.

www.rsc.org.uk 22 3h, one interval. Stratford till 11 August, then tour. Also cinema broadcasts (bookable)



Review: Rod Dungate, 21 March 2019

Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director, is heading up a policy of increasing diversity in the RSC’s work. In the acting space we should see a company that more accurately reflects our society as a whole.

In pursuit of this, virtually every character in this Taming of the Shrew is changed in gender.

This works well. But more than this opens up the possibility of presenting the real cruelty that lies at the centre of this play. The awful physical and psychological abuse that lies at the centre of the Petruchio-Katherine relationship is suddenly revealed afresh as it becomes a woman’s abuse against a male spouse. It is not worse because it is female on male, it is that we see it anew. And it is shocking. Moreover we might note that female violence against male spouses is significant, but, being such a taboo topic, even more hidden.

So far so good. We are set for a thrilling and disturbing performance. Even more so with Joseph Arkleys superb portrayal of Katherine at the centre. Arkley draws all our empathy; Katherine is clearly a man who can’t fit in, but doesn’t quite understand why, nor why nobody understands him. His frustration turns to anger and the anger to violence (and there’s a link to our times.) We fear for this Katherine, particularly as we know the way things will go.

Yet when push comes to a thrilling shove director Justin Audibert loses his bottle and opts for jaunty comedy with happy ending – everything this nasty play is not. An interpretation heavily hinted at throughout, and everything this play is not. Witness Bianco being auctioned off like a prize piece of cattle.

There are some strong performances. In particular from Claire Price, Petruchia; domineering and eccentric, but could well add a sharp edge of real nastiness. Also Richard Cles as Grumio who truly makes the text and the space his own.

There is a tendency, particularly among the younger actors, to speak the text rather than embodying it; to play the effect rather than creating a real world. Something that could not be levelled at neither Arkle nor Clews.

A witty production, then, from Audibert with some welcome surprises; the final sequence, though, is disappointingly spineless.

Baptista: Amanda Harris

Katherine: Joseph Arkley

Bianco: James Cooney

Petruchia: Claire Price

Hortensia: Amelia Donkor

Gremia: Sophie Stanton

Lucentia: Emily Johnstone

Trania: Laura Elsworthy

Biondella: Amy Trigg

Vincentia: Melody Brown

Grumio: Richard Clews

Curtis: Charlotte Arrowsmith

Servant: Aaron Thiara

Pedant: Hannah Azuonye

Widower: Leo Wan

A Tailor: Michael Patrick

Habadasher: Alex Jones

Servant: Alexander Mushore

Director: Justin Audibert

Set Design: Stephen Brimson Lewis

Costume Design: Hannah Clark

Lighting Design: Matt Peel

Composer: Ruth Chan

Sound Design: Claire Windsor

Movement Director: Lucy Cullingford

Fight Directors: Rachel Brown-Williams, Ruth Cooper-Brown

Company Voice and Text Work: Anna McSweeney

Assistant Director: Leigh Toney

Creative BSL Consultant: Brian Duffy

Music Director: Lindsay Miller


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