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The Taming of the Shrew by the RSC at the Richmond Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 22nd Mar 2012 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

LUCENTIO. Mistress, what's your opinion of your sister?
BIANCA. That, being mad herselfshe's madly mated.

I have never been a great fan of this particular play because I find the way in which the free-spirited Kate is humiliated and finally broken, as demonstrated in her submission speech, unpleasantly misogynist and sadistic. However, Lucy Bailey’s production is somewhat different: it is bawdy, ribald, fresh, intriguing – and fun!  

 Bailey concentrates on the personal rather than the political, seeing the play as a difficult love story - the journey of two misfits finding each other: “That’s what draws me to the play: the enjoyment and desire to see two people come together despite all their obstinacy, their pride and hang-ups.” By staging the action on a gigantic bed she sets the tone for her production – the battle of the sexes as a long foreplay that ends in bed. To Bailey the bed is a metaphor for life and a public forum. Even the most intimate scenes are played out in public.     

shrew_2121463b.jpg David Caves and Lisa Dillon

Set in patriarchal 1940s Italy, the action begins with the induction that frames the performance - a Lord (an authoritative Adrian Lukis) and his servants come across the drunken tinker Christopher Sly while hunting. Nick Holder gives a great comic performance as the uncouth, stinking, vomiting, farting beggar who is tricked by the Lord into believing that he really is a Lord who has mysteriously slept for fifteen years. The aristocrat presents his page Bartholomew (a gently humourous Hiran Abeysekera) as Sly’s alleged wife. Together they watch a play performed by a touring company. During the performance Sly keeps on chasing his “wife” across the stage clad only in his underwear and, at times, losing his pants.   

The show begins as Kate (a brilliant performance by Lisa Dillon) is led on stage in a pillory for savagely attacking a man. She looks truly pitiful but, as soon as her victim shows a sign of compassion, Kate kicks him in the groin, then turns on everybody else. Having made her point Kate takes a swig from her flask and smokes a cigarette. Her sister Bianca, played as a sweet, shallow girlie by Elizabeth Cadwallader, is quite the opposite, and Kate resents her for that. After binding and gagging Bianca she shows her ultimate disgust by pouring the contents of the chamber pot over her younger sister's head.
Suitors are flocking around Bianca. The only trouble is that Baptista Minola, the girls’ father, has decided that Kate needs to find a husband first. A seemingly hopeless endeavour until Petruchio (charismatic David Caves) comes to visit his posh and prissy friend Hortensio (suave Sam Swainsbury). Petruchio – a cross between Adriano Celentano and Jean-Paul Belmondo - finds the prospect of getting his hands on Kate’s dowry very tempting and immediately begins to woo her. Kate reacts to this insolence with extreme aggression, even spitting and peeing in front of Petruchio. Petruchio watches her antics with mild amusement. It seems Kate might have found her match. Meanwhile Bianca’s suitors do not remain idle. Lucentio (Gavin Fowler), sick with love for Bianca, decides to trade places with his servant Tranio so he can pose as a teacher and be close to Bianca while Tranio pretends to be Lucentio and presents himself as Bianca’s suitor to Signor Minola. Hortensio has a similar idea, disguising himself as Bianca’s music teacher. While Lucentio and Hortensio are vying for Bianca’s love, Tranio and the elderly suitor Grumio have a contest of their own - who is the richest man in the land – with Signor Minola selling Bianca to the highest bidder.


In this production Kate is so manic and clearly headed for doom that the insolently sexy Petruchio might very well be considered her saviour. The taming scenes are still unpleasant to watch but in this case they might be conceived as therapeutic. In the end, Kate’s submission seems to be motivated by love, less so by her understanding of man’s superiority, which makes it more bearable. Kate has found her equal in Petruchio and it is clear that this is not going to be a boring marriage if not necessarily an uncomplicated one.                
By Carolin Kopplin 


Until 24 March at Richmond Theatre





  • guilherme franco
    by guilherme franco 6 years ago
    Hi,can i have your email,or someone who is responsible of the link ,please
  • Carolin Kopplin
    by Carolin Kopplin 6 years ago
    You can message me.
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