StageScan Pick: The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe scored a 4.4-star average rating from pro critics, with several awarding five.

Sarah Crompton (What’s On Stage) hailed “a bold statement of intent from Emma Rice” and, like almost everyone, found Caroline Byrne’s production “quite the best Shrew I have ever seen”. She felt it “intelligently embraces the contradictions” of Shakespeare’s play, creating a “thrilling hybrid of comedy and tragedy” while Alexandra Coghlan (Arts Desk) admired “its ease” and reported “pace, energy, and a real clarity”. Mark Lawson (Guardian) praised a “splendid revival” able to “redeem the text through subversive delivery and images”, and was among those enjoying “many thrilling stage pictures”.

Crompton found the “lightly worn” 1916 Irish setting “a revelation” suggesting it “fundamentally alters the tone… giving the comedy a lilt”. Lawson suggested “key Irish writers… ingeniously inflect the interpretation”. He reported “Yeats’s poem Easter 1916…  adapted into a freedom anthem” and Coghlan saw this “less sung than howled, shouted, wrenched” from Aoife Duffin’s Katherine between scenes. She felt its “angry beauty… hangs like mist” over the production, so that “we cannot forget this musical cry of pain” despite a “pulsing folk-score”.

Crompton found Bianca’s “tedious suitors… genuinely funny”. Coughlan reported “sunny… knockabout physical clowning” and saw Imogen Doel and Genevieve Hulme-Beaman “at the heart of the production’s joy and energy”. Lawson described “a first half invoking Wilde” giving way to “a second… darkly indebted to Beckett” with “nihilistic touches” turning “the problematic comedy into a feminist tragedy”.

Crompton granted Edward MacLiam’s cruel Petrucio “a kind of rough charm” while Lawson reported “swaggering laddishness graduating into brutality”.

He praised an “electrifying Kate” from “an actor of exceptional vocal and emotional elasticity” and Coghlan found her performance “charged”. Crompton found Duffin “a glory: angry, tormented, bitterly humorous” and saw the key relationship handled with “an astonishing balance between high humour and bleak despair”. She hailed the “audacious reading” of Kate’s final speech and Coghlan praised its “rare vulnerability and horror” suggesting, “This Katherine is truly broken.”

Lawson summed up “a dislikable play” in “a production to love”. Coghlan felt “honesty and energy somehow make a coherent and thought-provoking whole of it”, and Crompton declared this “thorough-going and entirely satisfactory re-reading… A triumph.”