BBC, in association with Horsebridge Productions, produced Shakespeare Retold, a series of four interpretations of Shakespeare plays for television in 2005. Our favourite is The Taming of he Shrew, starring Shirley Henderson and Rufus Sewell.
Katherine Minola is a politician in 21st century England. Despite her furious temper she has worked her way up and is on the verge of becoming leader of the opposition. She is managed by loyal assistant Tim Agnew (David Mitchell).
Katherine’s model sister Bianca (Jaime Murray) is being unsuccessfully courted by her manager Harry Kavanagh (Stephen Tompkinson). Their mother, Mrs Minola, (Twiggy Lawson), is herself on the lookout for a suitor. Enter Harry’s friend Petruchio (Rufus Sewell), an eccentric man eager to take on a challenge. Their first and crucial meeting is in the lift – seen in the YouTube excerpt below.
Somehow Petruchio manages to get Katherine to marry him and accompany him on a honeymoon in Italy. What follows is a humiliating but charming battle of wills.
The final scenes introduce elements of irony. Kate appears to be happily subdued, basking in the stability and love provided by her relationship with Petruchio. And yet she’s the one wearing the pants – running the country.
The Shakespeare Retold version of The Taming of the Shrew is true to the essential plot but not the text. The motivation of Petruchio, linked with his turbulent childhood experiences of family, may make him more accessible to younger modern audiences. However it could be argued that Shakespeare’s theme of love in Elizabethan times has been overshadowed by the theme of love in the context of 21st century politics and gender roles.
The Taming of the Shrew was written by Sally Wainwright, directed by David Richards and produced by Diederick Santer with director of photography Alan Almond. Original music is by Hal Lindes, ex guitarist with Dire Straits.