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The Taming of the Shrew
by Lizzie Loveridge

The girls do get the chance to wear the cod piece.
--- Introduction written especially for the all female production of The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew
Janet McTeer as Petruchio and Kathryn Hunter as Kate
(Photo: John Tramper)
Falling into the Globe's season of Regime Change comes Shakespeare's comedy, The Taming of the Shrew. This play has proved something of a problem for feminists in recent years due to the way in which the vociferous and feisty Katerina is made to submit to her new husband, Petruchio in a programme of near torture, starvation, cold and sleep deprivation. The solution seemed to be for the Globe's artistic director Mark Rylance to give it to an all-female company and director Phyllida Lloyd to re-interpret. This production emphasises the laddish nature of Petruchio's behaviour so we see him, in the form of Janet McTeer, carousing, wenching and relieving himself on a Globe pillar.

The all female company has experienced a steep learning curve from the early performances of this season's Richard III and, although the principals were always excellent, now the minor parts play the gender switch with more confidence and credibility. Kathryn Hunter's physically diminutive Kate makes up in verve what she lacks in stature. She is vituperative as the spiteful elder sister. McTeer's wooing scene is electrifying and engenders a spontaneous hand of applause from the appreciative Globe groundlings. Petruchio and Kate seem to largely skip the first three stages of a relationship to go straight into Stage 4 the power struggle which is meant to be after the honeymoon, not before, as Kate tries to get Petruchio to stay in Padua. Later McTeer's delivery of the "chattels" speech has her dragging Kate away, struggling and screaming and bringing the tablecloth and the contents of the wedding breakfast to the floor.

In a firmly tongue in cheek finale, Kate makes it clear that her deference to her husband is a game. She has learnt the rules of making him think she is subservient to him. She waltzes through her lines with increasing rapidity and nonchalance, paying lip service to the male ego, and although Petruchio is moved to tears at the interminable description of wifely duty, maybe they were crocodile tears? Linda Bassett is a delightfully rural yokel Grumio, servant to Petruchio, and I liked too Amanda Harris' streetwise servant/master switching Tranio. Meredith MacNeill is a nicely measured Lucentio, Bianca's suitor who turns tutor. Special mention should go too of the unnamed actor in a shaggy suit taking on Troilus, Petruchio's flea bitten spaniel.

The Taming of the Shrew is playing to full houses with queues for returns the night I was there. It is so good to see this recreation of a Jacobean theatre full and at the top of its game.

Note: Last year's Shakespeare's Globe's acclaimed production of Twelfth Night will play at the Globe from 2nd - 12th October prior to a coast to coast tour of the USA. The only confirmed production for the 2004 Globe season is Romeo and Juliet.

The Taming of the Shrew
Written by William Shakespeare
Master of Play: Phyllida Lloyd

Starring: Janet McTeer, Kathryn Hunter, Linda Bassett, Amanda Harris
With: Penelope Beaumont, Louise Bush, Penelope Dimond, Liza Hayden, Anna Healy, Liz Kettle, Meredith MacNeill, Jules Melvin, Ann Ogborno, Laura Rogers, Rachel Sanders, Yolanda Vasquez
Masters of Clothing: Imogen Ross and Jenny Tiramani
Master of Properties and Hangings: Jenny Tiramani
Master of Historical Music: William Lyons
Master of Music: Claire van Kampen
Master of Dance: Sian Williams
Master of the Words: Giles Block
Master of Movement: Glynn MacDonald
Master of Voice: Stewart Pearce
Running time: Two hours forty five minutes with one interval.
Box Office: 020 7401 9919
Booking to 28th September 2003
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 21st August 2003 performance at the Globe, New Globe Walk London SE1 (Tube Station: London Bridge/Mansion House via Millennium Bridge)
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