The Taming of the Shrew


Shakespeare’s Globe comes to Hong Kong for the first time with an all-female production of The Taming of the Shrew. Janice Jann speaks to director Joe Murphy on balancing the traditionally misogynistic play with some modern feminism.

In the late 16th century, when William Shakespeare penned some of his most memorable masterpieces, his plays were performed by an all-male ensemble cast. In the centuries since then, the bard’s tales have undergone countless portrayals, adaptations, shake-ups and twists. Even so, the Shakespeare’s Globe’s world tour of one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, The Taming of the Shrew, takes an important step with their unique casting of the show – an all-female ensemble. The production premiered in June at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, and has been touring the UK, Europe and Asia ever since.

The Shakespeare’s Globe’s interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew is all the more intriguing given the play’s themes and motifs. Featuring a pugnacious, headstrong woman, Katherina (the shrew), and her love interest/nemesis, Petruchio, The Taming of the Shrew is famous for its psychological battle of the sexes and its controversially misogynistic elements. Show director Joe Murphy believes that utilising an all-female cast encourages healthy discussion on some of the core battle-of-the-sexes issues the play addresses. “This play has got a long history of issues dealing with women’s rights, and I felt like this was a really good chance to give women an opportunity to tackle this and give their thoughts on it,” Murphy says. “Plus, the Globe kind of tends to be a bit male-dominated, so for eight women to take on the Globe’s stage and represent the Globe around the world? It’s a great chance for us.”

As for being the only guy working with eight actresses? Murphy didn’t find the experience isolating. “Having a male director and female company is a great opportunity to be in dialogue and talk about that, because the play is much about masculine issues. What does it mean to be a man? When a man is in love?” Murphy adds, “They are a bunch of amazing women. It’s a joy to work with them. There are some issues when it comes to the masculine parts of the play, where they need me to direct them over it. And there are also some feminine parts of the play, where I need to listen to them. It’s a really great, open and fruitful dynamic.”

Murphy acknowledges that the casting of the show may provide some confusion for the audience but, so far, the show has been well received. “They play men, but they don’t go around slapping their thighs and walking around with booming voices – because that’s just silly. They just play the truth of the character,” Murphy says. “We were a little bit nervous about if that would work. But actually, people just forget and get straight into it.”

The key to the play’s success may just be the universal transcendence and power in Shakespeare’s words. “He really was tapping into something that is fundamental to the way human beings are,” Murphy says, “His characters go through situations that we can all relate to, whether it’s 500 years ago or today.”

Though this is the first classical play Murphy has directed, he feels he’s brought a playful sense of relevance to this production. “I think it’s really important for these plays to speak to young audiences and get them engaged and excited – not the expensive, old audiences exclusively,” Murphy says. “At the heart of it, I just love the play. I feel he’s tapped into some fundamentals that have cropped up time and time again. That’s the cornerstone of why he’s so relevant.”

The Taming of the Shrew, HKAPA, Lyric Theatre, Sep 25-29. Tickets: $795-$265;


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