The Barbican is in the middle of a jam-packed Winter season of Shakespeare classics, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, with As You Like It, Measure For Measure and of course, The Taming of the Shrew, captivating London audiences.
The RSC’s latest production of The Taming of the Shrew (which, if you’ve seen 10 Things I Hate About You, you’ll be somewhat familiar with), tells the story of a rich gentlewoman trying to marry off her sons to the highest bidder. However, there’s a catch – the youngest – and very in-demand son – Bianca (James Cooney), isn’t allowed to marry before his older brother, Katherina (Joseph Arkley) couples up.
In the original comedy play, the story revolves around Bianca and Katherina, however in this gender-switching remake, the somewhat misogynistic original play becomes a study of female empowerment, and casts men in a different – lesser – light.
Throughout Shrew, as the cast refer to it, the female characters are portrayed as strong and powerful, and men as weak and weedy. When Petruchia (Claire Price) finally manages to marry Katherina (the Shrew), she not only controls what he eats, but also what he thinks, says, and how he behaves in front of other men.
One of the noticeable differences between this version of the well-loved Shakespeare play, and any other of the Bard’s works, is the movement of the actors on the stage. Movement Director, Lucy Cullingford, worked painstakingly hard to ensure that every single hair swoosh, wrist flick or glide across the stage (yes, we’re looking at you, Sophie Stanton aka Gremia – come for her glides alone) was well thought-out, with the women maintaining powerful stances throughout, and the men moving with far more dainty, gentle and stereotypically feminine flair.
It’s impossible to pick a stand out performer – they were all brilliant. All of the main characters were perfectly portrayed. Having seen numerous Shakespeare plays performed live, hearing the audience laugh constantly throughout both acts, was a new and wonderful experience – the comic timing of Laura Elsworthy (Trania) especially was genius.
It was heartwarming and important to see a truly inclusive cast, with Amy Trigg owning the stage every time she appeared (and the control she has over her wheelchair and its twists and turns is seriously impressive), and Charlotte Arrowsmith, the first deaf BSL actor to perform in a mainstream RSC production, pulled off a stunning and amusing scene, solely using sign language to communicate with the other characters.
The Taming of the Shrew runs until 18 January 2020. Head to the Barbican before it closes, where this production will make you fall in love with the comedies of Britain’s best ever playwright.
Reviewed by Luisa Gottardo
Photo: Ikin Yum (c) RSC
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