The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London, July 2012

“I’ve come to wive it wealthily in Padua”, as Petruchio sings in Kiss Me Kate, but here at the Globe things seemed very different. Before the start a drunken football hooligan stumbled his way onto the stage and urinated on two plants in the audience before collapsing flat on his back. The plants walked out, and that disturbance caused someone in the cast to announce that the show was off, but nothing is quite as it seems in this hugely entertaining Shakespeare work, and Toby Frow’s production at the Globe did it proud.

Kate and Petruchio, all images Manuel Harlan

The drunken hooligan, who was of course Master Sly, eventually turned into Petruchio himself, full of wit and absurdity. Looking like Don Quixote and behaving like John Cleese on a bad day, Simon Paisley Day bowled his maiden over, turning her from shrew to loving wife. As Kate herself, Samantha Spiro glowed with energy from her very first appearance, making a highly attractive, if shockingly feisty and argumentative, prospect. She even knocked the wall down when her father and sister went inside the house and left her out. But there’s much more than mere outrage here — it’s all really very funny. When Petruchio says, “Antonio, my father is deceased”, his servant Grumio kicks a bucket, to huge laughter from the audience.

Kate being tamed

And the production is very physical, with a convincing punch-up between Kate and her sister Bianca, and when their father Baptista accepts that Petruchio is the man, and raises one of his arms with one of Kate’s saying, “Tis a match!” the audience burst into spontaneous applause. Pip Donaghy made a fine Baptista, and Pearce Quigley was quietly convincing as Grumio, the butt of his master’s dangerous inclinations for mockery and fun.

When Lucentio and his servant Tranio undress to exchange clothes, the better to woo Bianca, Sly in the audience is so disgusted he walks out, reappearing as Petruchio. And then he disrobes almost completely, down to tatty boots and a dance belt, which brought cheerful laughter from the audience when he turned his back to exit the stage. Jamie Beamish was delightfully over the top as Tranio, and his brief singing interlude looked set to turn this into a musical.

The food scene was very wittily done, and when the first kiss occurs four musicians in red play for all they are worth. It was all highly entertaining, with Samantha Spiro giving a delightful account of Kate’s final speech, and looking far happier than the other two recent brides.

“Why there’s a wench, come on, and kiss me, Kate!”, and the dance at the end was beautifully choreographed by Siân Williams. A show not to be missed.

Performances continue until October 13 — for details click here.

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