The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
The Taming of the Shrew
by Lizzie Loveridge

Katharina the curst!
A title for a maid of all titles the worst.

--- Grumio
The Taming of the Shrew
Alexandra Gilbreath as Katherine and Jasper Britton as Petruchio
(Photo: Jonathan Dockar-Drysdale)
The Taming of the Shrew isn't my favourite Shakespeare play. As I can be somewhat shrewish when riled, I identify overly with Katherine's humiliation at the hands of her new husband Petruchio. Soaked to the skin and half starved is how she starts married life until she learns to submit to her husband's will. However director Gregory Doran has worked wonders with this play so that it may even satisfy the feminist. Impressarios Bill Kenwright and Thelma Holt have brought this successful Swan production of The Taming of the Shrew from Stratford upon Avon to the Queen's Theatre in London's Shaftesbury Avenue, coupling it with twice weekly performances of a very rare sequel play by John Fletcher. The Tamer Tamed, written some twenty years after the original, details Petruchio's second marriage to a new wife, Maria. The same cast will perform both plays.

Petruchio (Jasper Britton) is seen as a man suffering from the loss of his father and sadly in need of affectionate companionship as well as fortune. Katherine (Alexandra Gilbreath) is the victim of sibling rivalry, her pretty sister, the manipulative, "butter wouldn't melt" Bianca (Eve Myles) who monopolises both the available suitors and the affection of their father. In this play there is a happy ending as Katherine and Petruchio fall in love with each other. Katherine's final speech becomes an affirmation of this love, an understanding of the rules of this erotic game in giving her husband what he wants most. Petruchio even throws away the wagers he has won from the other men whose wives have proved less understanding of this delicious game. The point being that he is not really interested in winning the money, nor her dowry, but the heart and mind of Katherine.

Seventeenth century music and bustle, with church bells and commotion recreate the Italian town that is Padua. Stephen Brimson Lewis' set is filled with old wooden doors, with peeling paint, some suspended above the stage and with a wooden gallery for the musicians as in the Swan Theatre. These doors are first used for Katherine to bang shut in temper, making her displeasure felt. Some scenes are directly reproduced from Renaissance paintings with the accountants in black caps and cloaks working away at an abacus.

The entrance of Petruchio with curly haired Jasper Britton (bearing a striking resemblance to Gene Wilder) has him so much larger than life than we actually feel sorry for Katherine, not him, until he talks about the death of his father and softens. When he courts her, Petruchio starts to make Katherine laugh. He tickles her feet mercilessly and we see that she is actually enjoying being with him. She loves the attention. I liked the visual asides Katherine plays to the audience, as unseen by Petruchio. She shows the rage she feels about his orders but which she mustn't show to him. This lets the audience in on the game she is playing with him. When first invited to kiss him she sinks her teeth into his hand hard and then gnashes at every other man onstage.

This production is so full of period atmosphere and energy with excellent, comic performances from the ensemble that the audience is carried along at a fair pace. The whole is a vivacious model of directorial invention. Jasper Britton and Alexandra Gilbreath make a convincing and sympathetic couple. They warmly involve the audience in their romance and in their hands, The Taming of the Shrew becomes a feel good comedy. Gilbreath shows Katherine's obvious unhappiness in the early scenes as she looks unkempt, her hair stringy, her complexion pale, her nose red, maybe from crying. In her final scene wearing the new cap but an old coat, having taken Petruchio's words about outward appearances to heart, she radiates joy and purpose.

This is as good as any Shrew I remember and is a must see.

The Taming of the Shrew
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Gregory Doran

Starring: Jasper Britton, Alexandra Gilbreath
With: Ian Gelder, Eve Myles, Nicolas Tennant, Paul Chahidi, Christopher Godwin, Daniel Hawksford, Rory Kinear, Simon Trinder, John Lightbody, Bill Nah, Tom Anderson, Christopher Harvey, Oliver Maltman, David Peart, Keith Osborn, Esther Ruth Eliot, Beth Vyse
Designer: Stephen Brimson Lewis
Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell
Sound: Martin Slavin
Music: Paul Englishby
Movement: Michael Ashcroft
Music Director: Kevin Waterman
Running time: Two and 45 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0870 890 1110
Booking to 6th March 2004.
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 19th January 2004 performance at the Queen's Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1(Tube: Piccadilly Circus)
London Theatre Walks

Mendes at the Donmar
Our Review

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook
London Sketchbook

Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2004, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from