Globe's Taming of the Shrew is a cheeky screwball delight

Jul 9, 2012

Shakespeare's riotous battle-of-the-sexes tale is directed with comic precision by Toby Frow

Manuel Harlan

What you need to know
The Globe has revived one of Shakespeare's best-known comedies, The Taming of the Shrew. Toby Frow directs the tale of two sisters in Padua who must be married off.

There's a wealth of suitors for the demure Bianca, but rebellious Katherina is more of a challenge. Only Petruchio, a cunning gold-digger, is prepared to take her on, and sets himself the challenge of winning her. The play is often described as a "screwball comedy" as Katherina and Petruchio clash in a madcap battle of the sexes.
Olivier Award-winning actress Samantha Spiro (Cold Feet, Coupling) stars as the wilful Katherina. Simon Paisley Day (Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon in the 2012 ITV mini-series Titanic) plays Petruchio. Sarah MacRae plays the amenable Bianca. Pearce Quigley is Petruchio's servant, Grumio. Until 13 October.

What the critics like
Without a shred of PC apology, the Globe romps through one of the sunniest, funniest of evenings, says Libby Purves in The Times. Toby Frow "directs with comic precision" and the actors are all splendid, "adding lovely grace-notes of absurdity" to the complex subplots. "A funny, cheeky, continuous delight."

Director Frow wisely balances the play's startling cruelty with exuberant comic energy, says Jane Shilling in The Daily Telegraph. Samantha Spiro is "a compact, muscular spitfire" as Katherina, while Petruchio is played by Simon Paisley Day with "beautifully judged complexity". The sweet-natured Bianca is given "a sharp flicker of minxy spitefulness" by Sarah MacRae while Shakespeare's comic passages are played with "a riotous mixture of verbal dexterity and slapstick".

From the off, the Globe's new Shrew is inventive, funny and engaging, says Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail. Director Toby Frow "extracts every drop of comedy". Add a lusty, Latinish band, a good turn from Pearce Quigley as Petruchio's servant, and a not-so-innocent Bianca and you have "a splendid Shrew".

What they don't like
This is "a broad, knockabout Shrew" without much psychological depth, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. Both actors go at it hammer and tongs, but they fail to hint that Petruchio and Katherina are both "troubled people whose very first encounter ignites a strong sexual spark". Still, "this is a conventionally jolly evening that never troubles to dig far below the play's disturbing surface".

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