Yes that’s right, after nearly 4 years of living here and never getting around to seeing anything at the Globe, on Monday I went to see my second play there in as many months!
This time I saw The Taming of the Shrew and I will try to explain here how good it was, but let’s just say – I don’t think the smile went off my face at all the whole night!
Just quickly on the venue itself before I get into the play. I won’t go into detail as I think I did that enough the last time, but let me just say for anyone who didn’t get a chance to read it and for anyone in London who hasn’t been – it is a gorgeous venue! It really is a must see for anyone into theatre, and especially Shakespeare, so if it’s not already on your list I recommend you add it!
I thought it was only specifically for the last performance that I saw, but I realised this time that there are musicians who entertain before the show starts and a little during the interval, which adds to the whole experience and it seems (from the two I’ve been to) that they tend to include a bit of dancing as the play closes. They play music from the period and it really puts you in the mood and right frame of mind to take it all in. This time I was directly in front of the stage and had a brilliant view, and again was really lucky with the weather, which was looking pretty questionable as I was taking my seat… and it was definitely colder so I can see why they close over the winter!
Now, for the performance itself…
I heard a number of women on the way out complaining about how sexist and misogynist the play is. One said to another, ‘I can’t believe you like that play’ and other comments were along the lines of; ‘oh it’s disgusting’ and so on. Aside from the fact that I was surprised they were even seeing Shakespeare if they didn’t like it or know the style at least, I couldn’t help but marvel at how ignorant they were being.
Firstly, it was written in the 1500s, in a male dominated society, where marriage was rarely about love and more often a business deal (money/land/status). Secondly, yes there are a plethora of sexist themes and comments in the play, but is was a timely representation of a society concerned with the roles, responsibilities and issues surrounding marriage at the time. And thirdly, it is a comedy – one of Shakespeare’s earliest in fact – so it is arguable that a lot of it is parodied rather than being a suggestion of what is actually ideal the world of Shakepeare’s time. So in short – get over it!
Needless to say, I loved it. It is one of my favourite plays of all time, and I’ve seen it several times before. It was another that I studied in school, and I’ve seen some of the more modern adaptations of it too (see 10 Things I Hate About You).
I love the use of presentation acting (where the players involve the audience and interact with it, rather than pretending it’s not there, creating a ‘fourth wall’). I love the humour; both in-your-face, quick wit, slapstick, subtle and sexual (yes, it is pretty rude even by today’s standards), the clever use of disguise, the deceit, the sexual undertones, and I have to admit there is even a part of me that doesn’t mind some of the chauvinism throughout. I am fully prepared for my feminist friends to be rolling their eyes right now!
There is an interesting little ‘Induction’ at the start of the play – a play within a play, which has often been left out of the stage productions I’ve seen because the play proper stands on it’s own so well anyway, and I have to admit I completely forgot even existed after reading it in school – showing my age a little here!
It was surprisingly included in this one and, without giving anything away, this particular take on it was so incredibly funny, clever and so well done that I actually believed something else completely was going on and it took me a while to twig it was part of the show.
Clearly it’s not often you get surprised by a Shakespeare that you know well, as you tend to know the story, so that for me was a bit of a highlight. The rest of it was hilarious all the way through and, given I was by myself I was slightly embarrassed by how loudly I was laughing.
Kudos should go to the Director, Toby Frow for bringing it to life so well, but especially to the actors. Pearce Quigley, who played Grumio, Petruchio’s servant, was an excellent fool. His expressive face, quick wit but slow drawling speeach and the use of pregnant pauses to increase awkward moments, all added to the comic relief in the play. And while I wasn’t a massive fan of Samantha Spiro (playing Katherina), nor Sarah MacRae (Bianca), I thought the rest of the casting was brilliant.
I went home feeling uplifted, nostalgic and a little regretful that I haven’t been more involved with theatre since I moved here. And the fun little tune that was stuck in my head from the dancing at the end made me feel like skipping all the way home.
Oh, and although you’re not meant to take photos, I snuck a couple of quick ones in… oops!