A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!






The Taming of the Shrew


Samantha Spiro (Katherina) and Simon Paisley Day (Petruchio) in Shakespeare's Globe production of The Taming of the Shrew

Photo by Manuel Harlan


by William Shakespeare


Directed by Toby Frow


Composer Richard Hammarton


Shakespeare's Globe


23 June - 13 Oct 2012




Baptista Minola, a nobleman, has two daughters, Katherina and Bianca. Yet while Bianca notches up an array of would-be suitors, from young to old, elder sister Katherina has none. Katherina’s reputation as a hell-cat goes before her. Petruchio, friend to Bianca’s suitor Hortensio, agrees not only to woo Kate but to marry her. In a thorny soliloquy, he sets out how he will tame her as he would a bird of prey, ‘to kill a wife with kindness.’ 

In all Shrew productions, the inclusion or omission of the induction scene, featuring the drunken Christopher Sly, is a theatrical barometer which can off-set the play’s misogynist overtones. In Frow’s production, a contemporary Sly, in a flat cap featuring the St George cross, lurches on to the stage, vomits, then relieves himself. Maybe this ‘new man’ has something to learn from the old man Shakespeare.

The nobles urge Sly ‘to frame your mind to mirth and merriment’ as he watches the play, whilst at the same time, tricking him into believing he is a lord. This is a leitmotif for this fun, energetic production as a whole. An Italianate landscape dominates the upper gallery, amidst white distempered, bleached wood suggesting warm climes, designed by Mike Britton. This offers versatile staging possibilities for a play in which over-hearing, disguises and scheming are a common feature.

Samantha Spiro’s Kate is all cat and hell-fire, as she kamikazes Simon Paisley Day’s Petruchio to the ground in their first encounter. Both scale Shakespeare’s sharp wordplay on wasps, stings and tongues with verbal dexterity. Paisley Day’s derring-do persona with ram-rod straight back, strutting and posing, which his servant/fool Grumio (a deceptively understated performance by Pearce Quigley), deflates in their opening scene, underscores another major theme - that of master/slave. In this production bucks are passed on with furious energy, which is infectious whilst cartoonish, softening the edge of the play’s flashes of physical and verbal cruelty.  

Yet the comedy is knockabout, slapstick – there’s even a custard pie – which the whole company respond to with relish, yet never to the detriment of the lines or the counter-plots of the sisters’ wooing. The play is always centre-stage. An anticipated set piece is Petruchio’s wedding apparel. It didn’t disappoint. With a thong in his heart and saucepan on his head, Day’s performance is a mix of whacky races and steel. An old radio trick, coconut shell. stand-ins for a horse topping off the scene, as Petruchio, wife in tow, makes for Maison Testosterone to end the first half; marvellous.

Yet the nub of the entire production, in these modern times, lies in the interpretation of Kate’s final speech. Will she fully acquiesce to Petruchio’s designs for a dutiful, obedient wife or hold something back? Spiro offers a faithful delivery, yet there was one gestural point where she touches her head, to show the importance of reason over blind passion. This, Kate has learnt.

The subsequent noises off, and the exuberant, rollicking, rambunctiousness of their union, ultimately shows that this pair, like Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, are evenly matched in wit, fun and energy. ‘Love brought these miracles,’ says Kate. As the evening wears on, the vibrant colours on the stage merge with the audience. This is interactive theatre at its best: where no pantomimic trick is unturned or unseen.  



Shakespeaare's Globe 2012 production of The Taming of the Shrew
Photo by Manuel Harlan
Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk
Box Office 0207 401 9919

In rep till 13 October
 Show times: 7:30pm or 2pm on specific dates. See website for more information:
Approx. 3 hrs. including interval




Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved