It is possible that The Taming of the Shrew is Shakespeare's most politically incorrect play, not that he seemed to care very much about such things.

The latest RSC production gets to the dark heart of the comedy by swapping gender roles, so that Katherine is a man and his suitor is Petruchia, not Petruchio, in a matriarchal world.

Confused? You might be, at least to start with. But this production simply reveals that power is power and abuse is abuse, no matter who is the dominant partner in any relationship.

There's a brilliant shift of mood in the second half when the mercurial Petruchia, played with great boisterous verve by Claire Price, begins to starve Katherine into submission, as well as trying a little sleep deprivation along the way. Katherine, played ably by Joseph Arkley as an initially spirited yet troubled young person, is reduced to obedience and party tricks by the play's end. There are a good many laughs along the way, it is true; but director Justin Audibert clearly understands his material well and the moral vacuum which Shakespeare explored. Indeed, this is a play which pretends to have a moral - the message that submission to power can lead on to happiness, but only if one's own spirit is annihilated in the process. This is no less than the doctrine of tyranny.

However, this is a great, provocative and imaginative production; I am tempted to say, a faultless production. The set and the costumes are more or less Elizabethan, but somehow the long dresses worn by the dominant women become power statements in a dystopia, while the meek men in floral doublets and pantaloons are images of passivity and acceptance. James Cooney as Bianco deserves special praise for catching the postures of passivity so well, including fiddling with his long locks when the world requires young Bianco to do little else. Meanwhile, the super-empowered women glide to and fro like Daleks, arranging society to their liking.

The Taming of the Shrew runs at the RSC in Stratford until August 31.

It is well worth seeing.