A version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew performed without a written script is being played at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden, writes Josh Salisbury.
The production, by the Shake-Scene Shakespeare company, uses only ‘cue scripting’, meaning actors have to prepare for the play in much the same way as Shakespeare’s actors would have.
Actors in the play, which runs from October 8th – 13th, were not told of the full plot of the adaptation or given group rehearsals before the production – meaning they have to rely on cues for their immediate lines.
Speaking to the Weekender pre-production, actress Linda Matthis said: “Because of the way we prepare none of the actors will know the full plot until we all meet on the first day of the production, we are given the instruction not to read the full play.
“We get glimpses of what we think is going on by the character specific scripts we are given.
“All I can say is that I am not playing to gender and in this era of #MeToo it is a timely and relevant production.
“The parts not gender specific so anyone can play any part, the story is the thing.”
The Camberwell-based actress said that the method of preparing was similar to the one use by Shakespeare himself, as writing out scripts would have been too costly and time-consuming.
She explained: “Cue scripting came about to save time, money and energy.
“There wouldn’t to be time to write out a full copy of the play for each actor, ink and paper were expensive.
“It also served as a way to protect the copyright of a play as the issue of plays being plagiarised was common, so to keep the scripts secure actors would be given scrolls that contained the last few words of their cues, their own lines, entrances, exits and only essential stage directions that could not be conveyed through the lines of the other actors.”
The element of mystery means that the productions are not like “anything we are used to experiencing” the seasoned actress said.
She added: “We as actors are both watching, and listening keenly for our cues, as the play unfolds, and the audience get to watch actors on their toes reacting in unexpected ways.”
The conventional plot revolves around two sisters, the headstrong Katherina and the demure Bianca, and the various men in their lives.
Scholars have often discussed whether the Bard’s play is misogynistic – but the adaptation promises to be an exploration of the #MeToo phenomenon through its lack of set gender roles.
The company’s previous Shakespeare productions using the unusual method of preparing include As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest.
Tickets for the show are £15 (£12.50 concession) and can be found on the Tristran Bates theatre website here. The show runs until October 13th, with performances at 7pm.