Review: The Taming of the Shrew

By John Nathan, February 26, 2009

Novello Theatre, London WC2

Conall Morrison’s RSC production of Shakespeare’s easily most misogynistic play makes no attempt to hide its message. The action moves from a stag night in what could be modern Amsterdam, where Michelle Gomez’s hostess is a bawdy stripper in leather mini-skirt, to Padua, where the courtship between Stephen Boxer’s Petruchio and Gomez’s Katherina amounts to little more than a display of relentless cruelty.

The fact that Boxer is the most diminutive Petruchio I can recall makes narrative sense insofar as this could all be a small man’s fantasy about dominating women. But the result is an evening of joyless theatre in which Boxer’s Petruchio makes up for a lack of wit and charm with punches, slaps and kicks directed not only towards his bride-to-be, but anyone within reach.

I wanted to climb up on stage and beat the hell out of him — an urge in no way impeded by the rare sense that I would probably win the fight. Gomez’s intelligent Katherina acquiesces all too quickly to this Petruchio, her early submission condemning us to an evening of few rewards.

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Last updated: 11:29am, February 26 2009