THE TAMING OF THE SHREWShakespeare's Globe and the Bolshoi Ballet
Two Shrews on the same day, with little in common save [some] characters and the bare bones of the plot.
The Globe's new production, set in Ireland one hundred years ago, the time of the Easter Rising, seeks to add emancipation to the mix. Stylish costumes in subdued tones; the company's shoes, untenanted, face upstage at the start – they are discarded again before the jig at the end.
Caroline Byrne's production paints a grimly patriarchal world – her Kate – a strong Aoife Duffin - begins as a rough fighter, but ends broken and bowed by Edward MacLian's rudesby Petruchio. The all-Irish cast includes many impressive performances, not least the lively servants – all played by women, including Helen Norton as a lugubrious Grumio, and superb comedy from Imogen Doel and Molly Logan, capturing to perfection the mischievous charm of the boy apprentices. Amy Conroy has a nice double as the Tailor, and the Widow, given a signficant presence throughout the piece.
An Irish band provides an atmospheric underscore.
This is an uncompromising, often darkly violent production, which is a timely reminder that the themes beneath the comedy are still sadly relevant here and now.
A very different Katherine in Jean Christophe Maillot's ballet for the Bolshoi, though she does suffer a wintry journey and a hard bed. But she is subjugated, or seduced, in that same bed, with an agitated Grumio [Georgy Gusev] adjusting the wayward sheets.
Set to a tuneful assortment of Shostakovich – Tahiti Trot for the wedding feast – Maillot's choreography is witty and slick. Impeccably danced by Bolshoi stars Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov as the Shrew and her tamer, with his shaggy mane and overcoat. Olga Smirnova is a gauche, demure Bianca, with Semyon Chudin as her lover Lucentio – they have a delightful Gadfly pas-de-deux in Act One.
The design, by Ernest Pignon-Ernest – stark, geometric and white, save for Bianca's blue and Kate's green – could well have been done in Shostakovich's lifetime, rather than just two years ago. Another stylish touch is the enigmatic prologue in which the Housekeeper [!?] teasingly trades heels for pointe shoes, warming up as the large orchestra – xylophones and saxes – is tuning up.