The Taming of the Shrew review – The Globe, London ★☆☆☆☆

Photo: Ellie Kurttz

“Is there much more of it … I can’t wait to see how it ends” cries Christopher Sly (Nigel Barrett) towards the end of The Taming of The Shrew at the Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank as other characters laugh knowingly. Plenty of us are asking the first part of their question ourselves. How much more can there really be to this muddled production?

The conventional framing device remains in director Jude Christian’s unconventional production: the drunkard Christopher Sly is tricked into believing he is a nobleman who is playing a part in a play in which Petruchio (Andrew Leung) courts the titular ‘shrew,’ Katherina (Thalissa Teixeira) while everyone else has their eyes on her younger sister, Bianca (Sophie Mercell).

The setting of this play-within-the-play brings to mind a children’s soft play area with Rosie Elnile’s staging including a giant teddy bear with a vulva-like opening at its centre, through which the cast enter and exit, and a host of accessories, such as trampolines, which adds little to the story except ramping up the chaos. And in that chaos, everything becomes confused – Christian not so much tackling the problem of the play, rather distracting from it.

Still, it earns its content warnings: “misogyny, domestic and emotional abuse, including coercive control and gaslighting, violence (including murder) and strong language.” But to what end? After two and a half hours the production fails to come up with an answer to why Shakespeare’s problematic play should be revived. Even a few great performances, most notably Barrett’s sozzled Sly, Teixeira’s sharp Katherina and Eloise Secker’s suffering Grumio, only go so far in redeeming the unredeemable.

The production’s sole moment of inspiration sees Katherina, an unreluctant player, plucked from the groundlings, break from the script and beg for the audience’s help. It’s heart-wrenching yet unearned as we return to the action and Katherina delivers her final speech much as it ever was – and still as problematic.

The Taming of the Shrew is at The Globe until 26 October