A small side door at the back of a nondescript office block seems an odd location for the theatre, but it is at such a place on the South Bank that The Rose Theatre can be found. The theatre was built in 1587 and was only rediscovered in 1989 during construction work. Since then, a restoration project has enabled the public to discover the site and the theatre runs a regular programme of events relevant to the history of the building.
Time Zone Theatre’s production of The Taming of the Shrew is part of The Rose’s 2013 season. This contemporary interpretation of Shakespeare’s controversial play runs at a very trim one hour and forty minutes and, while this is good news for those wishing to catch the last train home, it did create a few noticeable plot holes in the play’s conclusion since some key characters were dispensed with entirely.
The limited cast was somewhat necessary due to the spacial constraints of the theatre, but the production made good use of the small stage available and the entire space was revealed partway through the play to become Petruchio’s house with the old walls of the theatre outlined in red lights. This was particularly effective in emphasising Katherina’s marital solitude by her banishment to the farther reaches of the theatre to which Petruchio would not venture.
…Time Zone has attempted to link the situation of Katherina and Bianca to contemporary issues such as human trafficking…
Benedict Salter’s portrayal of Petruchio was one of the standout performances of the night. He at first appeared too kind and jovial but this aspect of Salter’s interpretation highlighted the moral ambiguities of Petruchio’s behaviour towards Katherina. Tom Phillips also proved very capable in the role of Tranio, taking much delight in the increasingly outlandish promises made in the guise of Lucentio for Bianca’s hand in marriage. Gremio is intended to be Tranio/Lucentio’s competition, but Matthew Eaton’s delivery was flat and overshadowed by Bianca’s other admirers.
In adapting the play for a modern audience, Time Zone has attempted to link the situation of Katherina and Bianca to contemporary issues such as human trafficking. The men fail to consider Katherina or Bianca’s opinions and see them merely as objects to be traded, won or owned. The performance of the play in 2013 thus raises valid questions about gender roles and relationships in today’s society and Time Zone’s Shrew is a succinct interpretation of the original work worth seeing in such an exciting and historical space.