Review: The Taming of the Shrew at the RSC

The Taming of the Shrew at the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Aug 31 2019 (then touring).

Never has the gender-swapping trend of recent RSC productions worked so well.

If you’re familiar with the main plot of this “comedy”, you’ll know that gold-digging Petruchio curbs the stubborn, ill-mannered shrew, Katherine, with physical and psychological torture. Ha ha ha.

It’s an uncomfortable play stuffed with ugly attitudes.

In this lavish vision by director Justin Audibert, we plunge into a matriarchal England, with women holding the weapons of power, purse string and sword.

It is the women selling off their sons to suitors, the women raining terror down upon the men, the women (in the case of the subplot), fighting over Bianca (now Bianco).

Claire Price as Petruchia and Joseph Arkley as Katherine. Photo by Ikin Yum (c) RSC

Is it acceptable that a woman breaks the spirit of an unwilling partner? No, absolutely not. Does it make this challenging play a little more palatable? Yes, it does. This is down to the magnificent performances of the females on stage.

Claire Price as Petruchia is witty and likeable, with a stage presence as controlling as the character’s unique take on wooing. Two of my favourite performers from this year’s ensemble cast (Sophie Stanton and Emily Johnstone, already seen in As You Like It) are hilarious as Gremia and Lucentia. If you can hold back your chuckles at Gremia’s stage slide, you’re a better audience member than me.

Sophie Stanton as Gremia. Photo by Ikin Yum (c) RSC

“Fantastic”, “challenging”, “brilliant”: just a few of the words uttered post-play in the halls and bars of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I couldn’t agree more. Be prepared to suspend your sensibilities for three hours and see The Taming of the Shrew.

The Taming of the Shrew at the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, Stratford-upon-Avon runs until Aug 31 2019. Book tickets here.

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Information correct at date of publication