The roles are reversed in the RSC’s latest production of The Taming of the Shrew as we are transported into a female dominated world where women hold the power. It’s a powerful, punchy and fiercely funny production.
It’s probably one of Shakespeare’s most problematic plays, as we usually see a young woman cast as the ‘shrew’ and forced to marry an obnoxious man who ‘tames her’ through starvation and abuse to become a proper lady until they fall in love. However, this version flips it on his head and we have a female Pertruchio barge in to the city to marry a a male Kate that is treated the same way. Whilst the themes prove still problematic, by gender flipping the roles it highlights the sheer sexism of the show, highlighting how shocking it is.
Minola, a rich gentlewoman wants to marry off her sons to the highest bidder, but insists that the youngest son Bianca who is adored by all the ladies, will not be married until her eldest son Kate is wed.
Claire Price is exceptional in the role of Petruchio, she commands the stage with her stage presence and expressive character. She holds her own as the smart and witty woman who bullies Katharine into becoming her husband. Joseph Arkley works brilliantly with her as Katharine as we watch his character diminish from the shrew to loving husband.
The comedy in the play is tremendous, especially Sophie Stanton as Gremia, the older suitor to Katharine’s brother Bianco and Laura Elsworthy as Trania. Stanton’s facial expressions are superb and her eye contact with the audience has a very relevantly funny Fleabag feel. Elsworthy’s depiction of Trania’s awkward personality as she poses as royalty has the audience howling with laughter.
Director Justin Audibert handles the complexities of the play well, toning down the violence to still portray the message of the show but not make a spectacle of it. Audibert keeps the traditional styling of the play but his clear and concise direction makes it incredibly accessible. I took a Shakespeare first-timer who was laughing away and found the whole experience fantastic.
The RSC’s Taming of the Shrew shines the classic story in a new light that makes an important stand and highlights the importance of adapting Shakespeare to alter perspectives. It’s a truly joyous night at the theatre that displays the terrific theatricality of Shakespeare in a way that is enjoyable for all.
On at the RSC until the 31st of August and then heading on tour, tickets and information can be found on the RSC’s website.