Transvestism in the Shrew is usually confined to the page boy in the Christopher Sly introduction. Extending it to Petruchio in the pre-wedding scene does more than incite the laughter of surprise.
Cleverly, his cross-dressing gesture here sends out ambiguous messages. On the one hand, it could be interpreted as a casual slight to womankind; on the other, it looked to me as though this satiric sartorial similarity was Petruchio's way of signalling to Kate (Monica Dolan) that they are alike in a much deeper sense - two quirky originals and potential soulmates in a dull social world.
In its staging ideas and the rich personality of its casting, this production is artfully pitched to take to the road and win over the kind of young crowd who would not naturally put an evening at this allegedly misogynist comedy on the top of any wish-list.
Posner positions the Kate and Petruchio story (here set in the correct period) within a Christopher Sly framing device that has been brought bang up to date. At the start the drunken Sly (also played by McQuarrie) is thrown out of a discotheque and carted off in a stupor by passing nobs. Instead of staging the main drama as a play-within-a-play put on for his deceived benefit, it is here presented as the activity on an Internet site that Sly stumbles upon while making a stymied effort to find porn.
At the end, using passages from another Shakespeare-derived play, The Taming of A Shrew, he's dumped back outside the disco where he berates two female acquaintances (one of them played by Dolan) for waking him "out of the best dream I ever had in my life".
So, in one sense, there is an escape clause here for the controversial sexual politics in the main plot. It was all just the wishful fantasy of male domination of the drunken contemporary yob. Happily, the performances of McQuarrie and Dolan - both wonderfully cast for their oddball modernity (he with his amused potato face; she with her tart, independent aggressiveness) - dissuade one from taking that easy way out.
God knows, it doesn't convert the Shrew into a feminist tract, but it certainly makes some kind of respectable emotional sense of it, if as here, you get an impression of growing complicity and sexual rapport between tamer and tamed. Dolan delivers the notorious submission speech with a spell-binding intensity that also has about it the air of a private joke between her and Petruchio. At such moments, you begin to see the lovers not as Shakespeare's most unfortunate conjunction, but as a dry run for those other happily paired misfits, Beatrice and Benedick.
To 20 Nov, (0171-638 8891); 2 Dec- 15 Jan, The Swan, Stratford-upon- Avon (01789 403403); then touringReuse content