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Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew [Samantha Spiro, Simon Paisley Day] [Globe on Screen] [DVD]  [NTSC]
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Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew tells the tale of the sharp-tongued Kate, who must marry before her younger sister, Bianca, is allowed to find a suitor. Undaunted by her waspish reputation, Petruchio attempts to woo the not-so-fair maiden, but is faced with a tirade of poisonous insults. Samantha Spiro stars as cantankerous Kate, capable of knocking a grown man down with her fist. With a stellar supporting cast, the production is a triumph, thanks to its ‘riotous mixture of verbal dexterity and slapstick’ (The Daily Telegraph). Filmed in High Definition and true Surround Sound.
"This is a crowd-pleasing production ... and the laughs come thick and fast" (The Evening Standard)
CastTom Anderson (Curtis)David Beames (Vincentio/Tailor)Jamie Beamish (Tranio)Michael Bertenshaw (Gremio)Simon Paisley Day (Petruchio)Samantha Spiro (Katherina)Sarah MacRae (Bianca)Rick Warden (Hortensio)
Stage Director: Toby FrowTelevision Director: Ross MacGibbon
Catalogue Number: OA1113DDate of Performance: 2012Running Time: 167 minutesAspect Ratio: 16:9 AnamorphicLabel: Opus Arte
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Globe productions may be period and largely traditional, but that doesn't mean that there's any reverential theatricality about them. The whole ethos of the circular theatre is to bring the works directly to the audience and involve them, and that's achieved brilliantly here right form the outset. The Induction framing device of a trick being played upon the drunken Christopher Sly not only takes advantage of the Globe's close-up interaction with the audience, it is even taken outside the theatre this time with Simon Paisley Day wandering in and onto the stage, followed by anxious "stage crew". From there on, the players have the audience in their hands and completely aware that this is a comedy and not to be taken too seriously.
The wider considerations of the work in relation to the affairs of men and women are however not neglected either, and if you want to take anything more away from the work there's plenty to consider here with secondary plots, switched identities and the usual Shakespearean servants who like to take matters into their own hands and make fun of their masters. All of that is, as ever, given equal attention in Globe productions, with strong casting that reveals all the wit and invention of the play with a willingness and ability to get it across to the audience. Accessibility is the key here in Globe productions, with the stripped down stage, engaging performances and rapid cut and thrust of exchanges. That's vitally important in a comedy like The Taming of the Shrew and it's particularly well done here.
I confess that I've never seen the Shrew before in any format - mainly because of its reputation vis a vis the M-word (of which more later), but I'm very glad I saw this version. For the odd "Induction" the theatre doesn't so much as break the fourth wall as shatter it to pieces with a piece of farce that had the whole audience in stitches. And this is just the start; the comedy and the laughs keep on coming, whether they were in the text all along or grafted on in production. Possibly the funniest is Grumio (a brilliant performance from Pierce Quigley) and the bucket, which I won't spoil for you.
The central performances of Simon Paisley Day (Petruchio) and Samantha Spiro (Katherina) are magnificent. Their jousting has real crackle and sparkle (and Day has a serious lack of inhibition, which I also won't spoil for you), and they are well-supported by the rest of the cast. Grumio leads the comics, but the actors playing Tranio and Biondello are by no means over-shadowed. Even Bianca gives as good as she gets in one scene. The second half begins with a wonderfully lewd comic song which isn't in any taxt I've seen, but which works very well.
And so to the M-word. Misogyny. The Shrew is the play the feminists love to hate. Is this hate justified? In this production I think not. This is because Samantha Spiro gives such a strong performance that even during the mental torture scenes one can never quite decide whether she has been truly tamed by Petruchio, or is humouring him, or has finally found a man worthy of her steel. Her famous speech in the last act can be taken seriously or ironically with no loss of impact either way.
The scene of farcical mistaken identity is excellent, as is the big denouement. The musicians are also splendid.
To my mind, the Globe sets the Gold Standard for Shakespeare. I recommend this production without hesitation.
It was great to see the play being performed as nearly as possible to the way in which it would have been done in Shakespeare's time.
The music was great - and Spiro certainly didn't disappoint. The only negative would be that at 167 min, it seemed overlong and this could have been remedied by some judicious editing of smaller scenes with some of the background characters. We might have done with one less song!
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As near to perfect as it could ever be... We were crying with laughter.Read more