Easter Rising Taming of The Shrew is a delight
By Adam Shaw
The all-Irish production of The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe Theatre, London, is a delight, successfully bringing to light the struggles of Irish women 100 years ago.
It is dotted with comedy, the actors and actresses effortlessly embracing Shakespeare’s humour, but ultimately leaves a hard-hitting message at the close.
It is difficult not to squirm as the lead male, Petruchio, humiliates, abuses and torments his wife, the fiery, red-headed ‘Shrew’, Katherine. But as uncomfortable as it is to watch (a testament to the acting abilities of Edward MacLiam and Aoife Duffin) the audience is left with hope, and appreciation, as Katherine delivers her final monologue.
They learn that, in spite of the patent misogyny displayed – both in 16th century Italy and 1916 Ireland – Petruchio fails to fully tame his spouse.
This is the feminist twist that director Caroline Byrne adds to proceedings, ripping up the traditional playbook and showing that women can be just as strong as men. That is not to say that MacLiam doesn’t give it his best shot – he is an utter brute, viewing Katherine as nothing more than a challenge, love is totally absent.
Duffin is equally impressive in her role, acting firstly as a strong, firebrand woman who doesn’t need, or want, a husband to tend to. She is ultimately broken, in part, as she is starved of food and sleep and forced to agree with Petruchio’s every claim, no matter how absurd it may be.
But it is clear, as she defiantly tells her crowd, that her actions were carried out somewhat sarcastically, that she will never totally lose her independence. Every soul is embarrassed; the men shamed that their ancestors acted in such a fashion, the women upset that there weren’t more Katherines at the time.
While this dark, though in a way uplifting, message is at the heart of the play, the supporting cast play their roles perfectly.
Aaron Heffernan as the loveable idiot Lucentio and Imogen Doel as his faithful servant threaten to steal the show with their wacky relationship, while fellow footman Molly Logan has the audience in stitches. Raymond Keane and Colm Gormley, the gentlemen fighting over Katherine’s more attractive, more appealing sister, Bianca, somehow manage to draw sympathy in their pursuits.
They only further the sexist nature of the play, literally bidding for Bianca’s affection with all the land and oxen they have to offer, but as they are shot down in favour of Lucentio, you can’t help but feel sorry for them. And it is easy to see why they are after such a woman; the radiant Genevieve Hulme-Beaman uses all her charm and wit to bring all the men around her to their knees.
The performance is captivating throughout, with plenty of belly laughs intertwined with the hideous nature of Petruchio’s chauvinism. It also leaves you with the realisation that, although set in Padua in the 1500s, the dress, accents and character representations remind you that this happened in Ireland not that long ago.
You may also like our interview with Edward MacLiam, who plays Petruchio in the play.
At The Globe this summer, an Irish production company is performing Taming of the Shrew, one of Shakespeare’s most studied dark comedies.