STAGE REVIEW: Menstrual Rage’s Taming of The Shrew @ Palace Green, Durham Fringe Festival (30.07.23) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Crude. Feminist. Brilliant. That is Menstrual Rage‘s Taming of The Shrew.

The all-female cast provided an amazing experience, enticing the audience for the entirety of the eighty-minute show. Passers by stopped in their tracks, watching in awe from the outskirts of the tent on Palace Green. Cathedral bells and gusts of wind tried to ruin the performance but failed in their attempts. Instead, the actors stayed in character whilst fixing the set as things toppled over from the wind. They were even awarded the title of Trooper of the Festival, due to their amazing management of these added factors. It must be said that there was no real standout character, as all of the actors were truly amazing – it was undoubtedly an ensemble piece.

Everything about this production was fantastically feminist – a key factor that differentiates Menstrual Rage’s version from Shakespeare’s. The female characters were witty, headstrong women with clap-backs to the sexual harassment they faced throughout. On the other hand, the male characters were an embodiment of toxic masculinity: Petruchio even mansplained something to Bianca uttering the phrase “if your little woman brain can handle it”. The audience therefore felt empowered by the female characters in one moment and disgusted by the male characters in the next.

At one point, reference was made to its feminist predecessor, 10 Things I Hate About You, by having Petruchio sing Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, much like Heath Ledger in the 90s classic. However, while Patrick Verona’s serenade to Kat Stratford is a swoon-worthy moment, Menstrual Rage’s version leaves the audience feeling that they need a long shower in order to clean themselves of the horror they have just endured.

Unlike Shakespeare’s original version, Katherine was not tamed by the play’s conclusion. Instead, she incited rebellion against Petruchio at the end, beating him with steps and smashing a painting of him over his head (leading to cheers and applause from the audience). Delivered with feminist rage, there was also a complete reinterpretation of the final speech of the play, resulting in it having the opposite meaning to Shakespeare’s original intention.

Performed on the last day of the Durham Fringe Festival, Menstrual Rage’s Taming of The Shrew is a fiercely funny adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. Full of pop-culture references and even including refreshing sapphic representation (Lucentia rather than Lucentio), it’s a performance that every modern feminist needs to see.

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