by Lynn on July 9, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

July 6, 2013 Evening

 At the Hampstead Theatre, London. Written by, who do you think? Directed by Edward  Hall. Designed by Michael Pavelka. Lighting by Ben Ormerod. Music by Propeller. Sound by David Gregory. Chris Myles, Dan Wheeler, Arthur Wilson.

 Produced by Propeller, an all male Shakespeare theatre company under the Artistic Direction of Edward Hall who is also the Artistic Director of the Hampstead Theatre. They do vibrant, well thought out, perhaps even perverse productions of Shakespeare that always makes me sit up and consider.

 The Taming of the Shrew is always a thorny, tricky play to do. A woman (Katherine) is ‘tamed’ like a falcon to cure her of her antisocial ways by the man who has been ‘bought’ to marry her (Petruchio). Katherine is the only one in the play who hits anybody. While Petruchio does grab her by the waist to subdue her, it’s Katherine who does the beating and throwing of objects etc.

 In Edward Hall’s unsettling, funny, moving, troubling (for all the right reasons) production, he starts with the Christopher Sly story. Sly is set to be married but no one can find the groom because he’s off somewhere, drunk. He finally shows up. Drunk. His veiled bride is distraught and leaves in tears. Sly is in a drunken stupor and his groomsmen decide to play a trick on him and engage him in a play—which is of course The Taming of the Shrew. He gets into the action.

 Katherine is a bit of a Goth. ‘She’ wears Doc Martin boots and tights and a black leather dress of sorts. Her hair is white and spiked. Her sister Bianca is demure in heels, a fashionable dress and wears lipstick. As Baptista tries to subdue Katherine, Bianca, behind him, gives her the finger which of course eggs her on to be more violent.

 When Petruchio shows up late for the nuptials he is in a torn t-shirt, cowboy boots and a white jockstrap and nothing else, except perhaps a sheen of sweat—it was hot in the theatre. I’m thinking that that jockstrap is a steal from a production of The Taming of the Shrew last year at Shakespeare’s Globe, when the Petruchio there wore a jockstrap, but that one was black. Hmmm.

 There are many laugh out loud antics in this witty production, but some things gave me pause. When Petruchio first ‘tames’ Katherine by putting her through many trials of no food, no sleep and twisting her up about the time of day and she finally succumbs, and he says ‘come kiss me Kate’, he stands there with his left arm down and the back of the hand out, the implication is clear. She has to kiss the back of his hand. And the positioning is also clear; she has to kneel down to do it too. I sucked air. I thought of Nigella Lawson and wondered why she stayed with that bully-husband, Charles Saatchi  (Mr. Saatchi has given her an out—he’s divorcing her saying he’s been a disappointment to her for the past year and this is the best solution. I think of another play in which one character says to another. “Are you a moron?” But I’ve gotten of topic).

 In the last scene when Petruchio ‘commands’ Katherine to come to him, and she does and gives that incredible speech at the end, it is not as a person who has been tamed, or enlightened about behaviour. It is about a battered woman ground down by a bully. Katherine says that a woman should kneel at her husband’s feet to do his bidding. In various productions the man quickly raises the woman to his level, equals. In this one Katherine kneels down and lays her arm out with the hand turned up. Petruchio slowly walks to her and stamps his heel down on the ground just missing her hand. She does not flinch but we all do. And suck air slowly. And try to keep out stomachs in place. Petruchio has won. At the end he tells Katherine to kiss him and she pecks at his cheek and then they go off to bed. We are looking at a totally defeated, hunched, destroyed woman.

 The play is not over. We go back to the Sly story. The play is taken away from him and he is told by “Katherine” in a strong, forceful in control manner, that it was only a play. Sly then looks at his wedding ring on his finger and is horrified at what has happened to him. And the production ends.


Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 crocodile bags for women July 12, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Hi, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues.
When I look at your blog site in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that,
superb blog!