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Taming of the Shrew at Tristan Bates Theatre

Taming of the Shrew
Taming of the Shrew

I think we’ve all seen at least one play by Shakespeare. Many of us will have seen more than one. What Shake-scene Shakespeare offers us is the opportunity to see Shakespeare ‘au natural’. No, not undressed but in its natural state using the ‘cue script’ technique.

In short; cue script work was favoured in 16th and 17th-century theatre due to copyright issues, production time and cost of materials and involves each performer preparing their part in isolation. They get their cues and their lines, prepare their costume and actions but in isolation, never seeing what the other performers will do or hearing their lines as they will say them.

From the outset, it becomes apparent that the scenes where two actors directly address each other are as a typical play would be but, the real challenge of the style comes to the fore when the stage is more heavily occupied. Remembering your lines, recognising your cues, improvising your stage placement and physical performance, and remembering which of your fellows’ cues you in is a lot to ask and the more complex the scene, the more things slip.

Forgetting lines and being put off by fellow performers is the order of the day and, to a point, it’s a treat that adds to an already light-hearted script. It loses its impact a little over the course of the evening but that, to me, is more than compensated for by the initial humour.

Missing the induction (to no great loss in my opinion), we are instead treated to an introduction by Director and Book Holder Lizzie Conrad Hughes giving us a brief description of what to expect using traditional Shakespearean language.

The scene is well set for the show proper to begin. Having said that, the scene itself is stark and bereft of scenery – I assume that any staging would add another level of complexity to the evening that may well have been a step too far – but the use of space is good throughout and there’s even performance amongst the first row of audience members which adds an extra element of interaction.

The whole cast gives it their all and it’s easy to see they’re a talented bunch. Of course, some cope better with the nuances of the technique than others but overall there was strong character identity and some excellent elements of on-stage listening – reacting to what is happening and totally focused on the centre-stage character at the time. Whether that is something drawn out more by the cue script technique, I’m not sure.

Is this just Shakespeare as it would have been done or is it Shakespeare as it should be done? For me, this was a lively and engaging performance that had an immediacy and energy that can sometimes be lacking from a more ‘straight’ Shakespeare play and while it may be a glorious shambles in its way, Shake-scene Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew is highly entertaining and highly recommended.

4 stars

Review by Damien Russell

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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