Thomas W. Hodgkinson

The Taming of the Shrew

By William Shakespeare
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

When I went, a heckler stormed out, declaring us all “dead” and ranting about “wine and cheese”. Sad to say, this was probably the most exciting moment of the evening. Maria Gaitanidi’s take on Shakespeare’s reverse-Pygmalion myth, which sees an overbearing male turn a vibrant woman into a submissive statue, is explorative. Her ensemble cast speak at one remove from emotional commitment, reminding us we are watching not just actors, but actors playing actors. Yet the result feels more like a workshop than a finished product. Paul Ready is a hot if humourless Petruchio, while Mattia Mariotti, thickly accented as Tranio (“Thata wencha is starka madda!”), proves a talented clown. The serene demeanour of Melissa Riggall makes her a provocative choice as Katherina. Has her reputation as “shrew” been imposed by an insecure patriarchy? I was hoping to see her final speech of submission inverted, perhaps delivered in a tone of fiery, spit-flecked conservatism. It didn’t happen, making a quiet ending to an intermittently successful production.