Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew at Tristan Bates Theatre

The Taming of the Shrew is usually called a comedy but it seems to me more like a problem play. This is confirmed in the current production at the Tristan Bates Theatre, part of the Actors Centre in Covent Garden. Performed using the cue script technique used in Elizabethan theatres this version of The Taming of the Shrew brings out the power dynamics between the genders. This is a fascinating insight which sheds fresh light on a much taken for granted “comedy”.

One of the best aspects of this production is the chance it provides to as it were, see behind the scenes. For Director/Book Holder, Lizzie Conrad Hughes sits in the front row and whenever the actor shouts “line” quick as a flash she provides the line and magically the actor carries on. It’s really fascinating and for me most intriguing to see actors and director working in this way before a live audience. A bit like seeing Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings he made prior to painting.

I particularly enjoyed the inventive way in which this production came up with modern equivalents to help us understand Shakespeare. So, for example, a suitor Tranio (Robbie Capaldi) is wearing a blue Marks & Spencer lounge suit. Nice touch. But the best rendition of this modern analogy trick comes with the presentation of the two key protagonists Petruchio (Matt Williams, excellent) and Kate (Helen Rose-Hampton, wonderful). As a man who has to tame a shrew. Petruchio is here presented in the guise of a heavy metal biker with his, The Cure t-shirt “Boys Don’t Cry” and his clunky black motorbike boots, long greasy hair and macho swagger. Not to be outdone Kate wears a green boiler suit with a military dog tag around her neck, her hair is tied up Rosie the Riveter style and her yellow building site boots with the CAT (a clever pun on Kate ) label prominent all add up to one bad arse gal. The scenes between these two held the most interest for me. What struck me, and I’d never noticed it before, was the way Petruchio effectively “gaslighted” Kate through a strategy of starvation, sleep deprivation, confinement to the house and no new clothes. This strategy proves so successful that by the end Kate has so thoroughly internalised her dependency that she struck me as a classic case of Stockholm syndrome.

This production is not for the faint-hearted but if want to get as near to the original Elizabethan experience and see for yourself a ‘behind the scenes’ production then this Taming is well worth the effort.

Shakespeare’s thought-provoking, darkly funny and often considered controversial play is the newest production from London based theatre company Shake–Scene Shakespeare. Known for their work using ‘cue–script’ preparation, the actors perform without prior full cast rehearsal. Given only their character’s lines and immediate cue words, the actors ensemble together on stage without prior knowledge of what or who they will encounter. Thus beginning an attention-grabbing voyage of discovery.

The cast, which includes a 60/40 male to female representation on stage includes Jonathan McGarrity (The Full Monty national tour, Coronation Street), Angela Bull (Wallis: The Queen That Never Was, Channel 5), Robbie Capaldi (Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet for Sh*tfaced Shakespeare) and Eugenia Low(BBC Radio 4’s award-winning audio drama ‘Quake’).

By William Shakespeare

Listing & Booking Information:
Date: Monday 8th – Saturday 13th October 2018
Time: 7pm (Approx running time 2 hrs 30mins including interval)
Venue: The Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower St, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9N

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