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The Taming of the Shrew - Lyceum Sheffield

Published by: Paul Tyree on 9th May 2013 | View all blogs by Paul Tyree
The Taming of the Shrew

Propeller in Association with The Touring Partnership


Propeller's all male cast here present a Shrew perhaps unlike any that you've seen before. It opens in a gothic church with wedding guests milling around
before transporting us to a post punk exploration of the battle of the sexes.
Kate is reminiscent of Tank Girl, all blonde hair and attitude and the other characters range from a Spiv, a Toreador, a German Hiker from the 1920's,
someone looking as though he should be a member of Madness, a 1920's Schoolmaster and Petruchio himself channeling the look of Michael Jackson from the opening of Thriller. This is not, therefore, a traditional reading of the play.
It is, however, one of the best interpretations of the play that I've ever seen. It is playful, expertly choreographed and each scene seems to have had a great deal of time spent on drawing out the best that it can be. All of the cast perform wonderfully, so much so that to pick out any for special
commendation would be unfair on the rest. The direction is crisp and note perfect as is the lighting and sound. All in all this is a stand out piece of Shakespeare.
Having said all that and praised it to the hilt, it is, however, a disquieting piece of work. In essence this is a celebration of the breaking of the female
spirit, which certainly in todays times sits a little uncomfortably. The fact that this is an all male cast has two main impacts. Firstly it should bring home to men just how much damage has to be done to Kate in order to tame her because it is quite obviously one of their own that they are destroying.  Secondly the all male cast seem to relish the destruction all the more and there is a palpable glee and sadism in the air. Because of the all male cast there is certainly more of a freedom to the violence than there perhaps would have been were there female members of the cast.

You can read this play in several ways, but as with The Merchant of Venice, I feel Shakespeare is trying to make us feel sickened at the damage we do to others. Just as Kate's spirit is destroyed by the social norm of the day, so is The Merchant of Venice forced to abandon his religion in order to fit in.
Here it is made clear that women such as Kate, with thoughts and opinions of her own are made to conform only by the emotional, physical and psycological breaking of her spirit. This isn't whimsical or funny and yet most of the audience were merrily laughing away as though it was all acceptable. Even the women. The odd thing is that were the same kind of damage done to a dog most of the audience wouldn't be able to stomach it, and yet as it's happening to a woman, everyone, including women in the audience seemed to think it was fine. All I know is that Germaine Greer will be spinning in her grave, and she's not even dead yet.


The Taming of the Shrew
Sheffield Lyceum
8-11 May 2013
Box office: 0114 249 6000 (booking fee)


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
    Thanks, Paul. Sounds like a great production ... and obviously thought provoking! Your comparison to the treatment of a dog really hammers home the point. I wonder what might have happened if the same audience were to take a secret ballot on the topic of domestic abuse immediately after the show?
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