The comedy is either a fantasy of the tinker, Christopher Sly, or a command performance, or a charade in the inn. But director Toby Frow does away with the framework and supplies a raucous prologue in which Sly as a drunken football supporter is recreated as Petruchio: “I am a lord indeed,” cries Simon Paisley Day, and off we go.
Smantha Spiro (Katherina) and Simon Paisley (Petruchio) in The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare's Globe, London Photo: Manuel Harlan
But not before he has urinated on the audience - yes, charming, but the groundlings lap it up - and a pretend stage manager declares they will have to cancel the show. Sly has a wife who is conveniently reinvented as Samantha Spiro’s furious and vengeful Katherina.
Half a dozen times in this play someone, invariably a woman, is described as froward, an adjective which here might derive from the director’s name and is certainly descriptive of the restless, bustling energy of his production, which is designed by Mike Britton, with charming period music by Richard Hammarton.
“He that is giddy thinks the world turns round.” The stage is in a constant whirl, characters changing identity, abusing each other, even kicking the bucket (reports of a demise are accompanied exactly so). Spiro’s default mode is one of forward, and froward, propulsion, until placated, and exhausted, by the curious nature of her seduction.
Paisley Day solves the problem of Petruchio’s nastiness by being very funny. He’s more ludicrous than charming, sporting a huge cod-piece on his wedding day and turning upstage to reveal a bare bottom. There’s a striking Bianca from Sarah Macrae and a notably amusing Grumio from Pearce Quigley, doltishly doubling as his master’s horse and following him behind with a lovely pair of coconut shells.