The Cheap Seats

by Harriet May

shakespeareglobe

We are well-practiced groundlings, and as we sit cross-legged in the queue outside the yard entrance to Shakespeare’s Globe with our £5 tickets we begin work on the 5 litres of boxed wine we have brought between eight of us, shared out in plastic cups. We’re about to see Caroline Byrne’s adaption of The Taming of the Shrew, which none of us really have any reference for outside of 10 Things I Hate About You. We are (pop) cultured.

When we’re let in to the theatre we move swiftly to stake our claim at the front, and although we’ve been told off enough in the past to know not to rest our cups of wine on the stage, I twice catch myself about to do just that. I’m more likely to want to do what I want than what I’m supposed to; more Kate than Bianca.

When Bianca’s suitors are introduced to her, and to us, Lauren whispers, “They’re so old!” We can’t imagine being married off by our fathers. Neither can Kate: obstinate and unmanageable, she rebels by repelling. As Kate is married against her will to Petruchio, and literally tied into her wedding dress, we mourn for her, sadly sipping our wine.

But what actually happens to Kate and Petruchio is this: their relationship is forged from equality and companionship. Bianca and Lucentio, on the other hand, both wanting different things, get them, only to find they share no common ground once inside their marriage. Petruchio has sought out what he knows will make a worthy wife– Kate’s high spirit and boldness– and she returns an unmatched sexual love and fierce loyalty.

Marriage is more egalitarian than ever, but women still must compromise with the world in order to live on their own terms. Niki Nakayama, the subject of episode four of Chef’s Table, will work only in closed kitchens after a man once walked in to the restaurant where she was working, and seeing that she was a woman, left immediately.

When the play has ended, we head down to the stoney beach beside the Thames where we finish the wine, proving none of us would do well with the deprivation Petruchio uses to tame Kate. But we too are high spirited. “To the pub!” someone shouts.