The Taming of the Shrew

By Danai Paraskevopoulou

Image courtesy of The Marlowe Theatre

Royal Shakespeare Company moved us into a parallel version of Taming of the Shrew in the Marlowe Theatre, where women are the prevalent gender rather than men. The director Justin Audibert was inspired by the novel Power by Naomi Alderman, where women are in charge. The director changes the way society was in 1590 by making a gender-flipped version of the story in his production. In the performance, we see male characters played by women and female characters switching into men. Baptista Minola (Amanda Harris) is a rich woman who wants to marry her two sons and she insists her older son has to get married first. Unfortunately, her first son Katherine (Joseph Arkley) is a sharp-tongued shrew and makes it more difficult to find him a wife. Petruchia (Claire Price) arrives in the city and her goal is to marry a rich man. As a result, she finds Katherine and without asking him, she sets a date for their wedding. Katherine goes to his wife’s country house where his wife is treating him as her property. Petruchia has the power to do whatever she wants with her husband in order to ‘tame’ him and obey rules. The director created an interesting story because we could see Shakespeare play from a different point of view. By reversing the stereotypes, women were in charge of this society and men were the ones who had to conform to their rules. The greatest part of the show were the actors, who performed brilliantly, making the audience familiar with this gender-bent society. Their voices were clear, and we were able to hear everything they were saying without microphones. With great movement and humour, they made the audience laugh and have a good time. The costumes by Laura Rushton were very interesting, highly sophisticated and appropriate to the time frame of the story. The innovative music of Ruth Chan, described as “rock Renaissance”, has the best of both worlds as she combined the musical features of the Renaissance period with the contemporary world. The only downside of the performance of this play was the duration of it. It lasted for approximately three hours. The issue of this is the fact that the tension of the plot has not been distributed properly to maintain the attention of a modern audience. There were scenes that simply made the plot stagnate and it distracted and bored the viewer. The fact that the language is also difficult to understand, some of the jokes could have been altered for a modern audience, or even removed. The performance was about power and experimenting on what is going to happen if females become the dominant gender. A story from a different perspective which I believe does not only apply to the 16th century but also to the 21st century. In conclusion, the performance was splendid. Fresh and entertaining. However, the show would have benefited more if it would have been tailored towards a modern audience.

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