Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew can be a problematic play for modern audiences. Shakespeare drew the outlines of the story from an earlier (and more misogynistic) play and stretched conventions as much as the customs and expectations of his day allowed, making it not only a more popular but also more provocative tale. And, in the care of the capable players of today’s Globe Theater, it is a hilarious and outrageous comedy.
I watched the 2012 production on DVD, and could hardly have enjoyed it more. I was delighted (for the first time, I think) to see the production begin with the famous and curious two-scene “Induction” (a common device in Shakespeare’s day, though The Taming of the Shrew was, as far as we know, the only time the Bard used it).
The play was presented in Elizabethan style and, as can be expected of Globe productions, the direction (by Toby Frow), casting, and acting were excellent. The female leads of Samantha Spiro’s Katherina (the “shrew” of the title) and Sarah MacRae’s Bianca played their parts perfectly (in fact, I was delighted that MacRae played Bianca as much less weak and wimpy as is often the case). Simon Paisley Day as Petruchio was shockingly effective, Michael Bertenshaw as Grumio (a favorite of mine) was brilliant, and the rest of the cast and the extra touches (including a delightful nod to Monty Python) were flawless.
Though Spiro’s take on Kate was straightforward and her transformation apparently complete (I prefer a more nuanced interpretation), I found Petruchio’s climactic, “Why, there’s a wench! Come on, and kiss me, Kate,” satisfying.