Friday, July 14, 2017

'Titus Andronicus' by William Shakespeare

14 July 2017

Last Tuesday we were at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to see the new RSC production of ‘Titus Andronicus’. I had never seen ‘Titus Andronicus’ before and, although this was a stunning production, I don’t think I want to see it again. I knew the play has a reputation for being particularly gory but I found the plot incredibly discomfiting as well as not making a great deal of sense. There is a horrifically brutal rape scene that sits very uneasily with the dark comedy that follows. There is also an incredible amount of blood spilled during the performance: don’t sit in the front row! Blanche McIntyre’s modern-dress production is an amazing theatrical experience which compares contemporary crises to the decline of Roman civilisation, opening with anti-austerity protesters in hoodies trying to storm fences protecting the Roman Senate.  There were some very witty touches, such as making the messenger Titus Andronicus sends to the Emperor into a cyclist with a padded ‘Deliveroma’ box on his back. And having some of the speeches delivered from a podium with a microphone allowed for a quiet comic undercutting of some of the more declarative text. The (very) dark humour reminded me of the 2005 National Theatre production of ‘Theatre of Blood’ (adapted by Lee Simpson and Phelim McDermott from the 1973 MGM movie). The always-impressive David Troughton, who I last saw at the RSC as Gloucester in ‘King Lear’ (reviewed here in September 2016) is wonderful as Titus Andronicus (is he working his way through the goriest Shakespearean parts?). This is a quality production of a very peculiar play.

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