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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

Taming of the Shrew at Hope Mill Theatre

Updated: Jun 26

Review by Seamus Kelly

HER Productions, and Girl Gang Manchester have created annual productions of Shakespeare plays under the banner of “Unseemly Shakespeare”. The latest and sixth production, “The Taming of the Shrew” is currently playing at Hope Mill Theatre until 30th June.

The Taming of the Shrew is controversial and there is a great deal of debate about whether it is a misogynistic work or challenges the misogyny that was prevalent at the time it was written by William Shakespeare as it can still be today.

This production sets out to use the work to challenge or expose the misogyny. It does so by changing the “induction”, a framing device, so that the character Sly, usually a drunken tinker tricked into believing he is a lord, is in this case actually the wealthy lord who having spent a raucous night in a cabaret club (for cabaret read burlesque) and behaving badly. The play is then performed for Sly by the performers from the cabaret club.

The original induction used by Shakespeare can cause some confusion and as such I’m not sure that the altered version here clarifies its purpose. I found the scanty costumes and the pole-dancing to be more than what was necessary to create the atmosphere of the club where the play is set. The production does, however, reveal the cruelty of the “taming” of Kate by Petruchio who is depicted very effectively as a misogynist and narcissist.

Even before the audience has entered the auditorium the cast, acting fully in character, engage with them in the bar and café area to set up the notion that the whole of the performance is taking place in the cabaret club. This effect is added to by some seating some of the audience at the back of the stage and some at tables on either side. The stage setting itself was bare except for a small, raised platform with a pole-dancer’s pole.

The whole cast performed very well but the standout performances came from Shady Murphy as Kate and Emily Spowage as Pertruchio. Spowage in particular can make the seamless, and apparently easy, switch from attentive man setting out to snare Kate to a bullying and controlling man using physical and emotional abuse to get his new wife to comply with his wishes. That was so effective, and conveyed the reality of such behaviours so well, as to be quite disturbing – which, of course, it ought to be.

The powerful singing of Megan Holland, who plays the Madam deserves a mention as one of the highlights of the show.

Credit to all of the cast who mostly played two roles each and maintained their characters throughout with nobody missing a beat and their timing always spot on.


This production runs until 30th June at Hope Mill Theatre, then from 10th to 13th July at the Shakespeare North Playhouse and finally on 17th and 19th July at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield.



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