Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
By Richard Lutz
A table fork that had speared the semblance of a heart landed near my press seat. It didn’t seem that out of place as Titus Andronicus is violent and bloody. I thought of Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs film where halfway through, the viewer seemed simply desensitised to react because of the constant blood and gore.
This is Revenger Tragedy at its bloodiest and Shakespeare must have known his audience, an audience which regularly went to bearbaiting, cock fighting, beheadings and the occasional heretical burning. The crowd knew blood, the writer knew blood and it all made for good entertainment.
The RSC knows it is a museum piece. But once you get past the incessant gore or the threat of it, it is a straightforward headstrong story about power, vengeance and the crawl up the bloody pole to gain the top seat at the table.
Director Michael Fentiman, unfortunately, does mix up his visual effects though, draining away the brutal punch of Elizabethan bloodlust set in ancient Rome.
Costumes range from centurion to early 20thc evening gowns to modern urban Goth (well, the Romans were fighting the Goths after all). Titus Andronicus sits down in battle dress, has a ciggy, listens to the radio. Soldiers have medieval crossbows. It makes for a bit of a mishmash and takes away from the theatrics of how Elizabethans perceived ancient violence. I just don’t see why today’s directors have to mix up eras like this.
Good acting though from RSC veteran Katy Stephens as the Goth queen Tamora; Kevin Harvey as her Moor lover, Aaron, who has the sharpest lines; and star Stephen Boxer in the title role using his feigned madness to ultimately stuff his revenge down his enemy’s throat by feeding Tamora her sons’ remains baked in a pie.
Of course, it all ends in rivers of theatric blood, gore, mayhem and that forked human organ that rolled up the aisle towards me
So, not for the faint hearted. But strong performances and a solid production.
*On ‘til 26th Oct/ Tix: 0844 800 1110