Review: The Taming of the Shrew – Globe

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A Little Light on Laughs

One of the finest things to do on a warm, June evening is to take a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe at Bankside. The summer season and performances in the famous ‘O’ form an iconic part of London’s theatre scene; a mix of tragedies and comedies over the coming months provide a sufficient feast and The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Jude Christian, will play until the autumn, writes Christopher Peacock. 

This play within a play tells the story of a few men competing for the affections of a successful merchant’s daughters, using whatever means necessary. From underhand tricks of deception and impersonation, to mental manipulation, the tale ends with young Petrucio – the success story – having successfully ‘tamed’ his ‘shrew’ of a woman.

What you are struck most by in this production is Rosie Elnile’s design and the decision to use a select amount of puppetry to help embody the duplicitous nature of much of the characters’ words. The puppets’ stylings certainly add to a design theme that has you feeling as if you are in a fever dream while stuck in a child’s cot. The huge teddy bear with its form split open as an entrance, and the rouged faces of the cast, create an oddball Toytown feel.

Design decisions do dominate because of Jude Christian’s direction being a touch static and low on energy. A lot of this, though, is forgiven for the two cast absences having to be covered on the night. However, Syakira Moeladi having to read in the role of Biondello for the missing John Cummings actually played it as an advantage and many laughs were gained from the use of the script as a prop. There were bright performances, too, in some of the smaller roles with Tyreke Leslie as Tranio and Jamie-Rose Monk as Vincentio creating highlights; both handling the text and comedy best, and the most at ease.

As audiences change over the centuries, tastes naturally change and societies become more in tune with contemporary social injustices. Many of Shakespeare’s works naturally come under this spotlight now and The Taming of the Shrew is not excused from this. A story that, at its heart, is about coercive control of a partner would hardly strike as comedy gold today without scrutiny. 

However, some comedy, like slapstick, seems timeless because the power balance between audience and stooge does not change, but some Shakespearean comedies lack the high stakes that modern audiences find funny. This production was trying to hit numerous different notes but was a little light on laughs and felt very distracted as a whole.

Shakespeare’s Globe, 21, New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT until 26th October. Times: 7.30pm; matinees 2pm. Admission: £5 – £75.



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