by William Shakespeare
The Rose Playhouse to 30 July
56 Park Street, London SE1 9AR to 30 July 2016.
Tues – Sat 7.30pm Mat Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 40 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9565
Review: William Russell 9 July.
Mayhem, glorious mayhem and gore galore.
Titus Andronicus is a play which goes wildly over the top from the start and this production by NY Jung Han Kim does its excesses full justice. The play is an early piece, written possibly in collaboration with someone else around 1591-92, and is quite simply a young man cashing in on the fashion of the time for bloodthirsty, bloodstained tragedies containing amputations, murders, rapes and general mayhem. It is a deliberate attempt to write a box office smash which worked, although it did eventually go out of favour in the seventeenth century.
Unlike his other Roman plays the plot is fiction. Titus, a Roman general, returns to Rome with a captive – Tamora, Queen of the Goths, who manages to wed the emperor Saturnius. There are assorted sons who plot, and a daughter, Lavinia, who gets raped, has her tongue extracted and her hands cut off. Tamora’s sons are killed and baked in a pie served to her for dinner.
Jung Han Kim has pulled out all the stops. The cast chant, perform complicated group routines wrapped in black latex, which may or may not have sexual overtones, remove their clothes, fight, and every now and then utter some lines of Shakespeare.
It is highly entertaining, breathtaking even, although hard to follow given there is a cast of eight, and people play multiple roles which sometimes seem to involve playing the murder of a character one is also playing.
The whole thing goes with a lick, one is never bored, and given that the play was, in the first instance, a box office pot boiler the liberties taken do not matter. It is a piece to be enjoyed for what it is.
Charles Sandford suffers nobly as Titus as he keeps losing more and more garments, Miranda Shrapnell makes Lavinia truly piteous and Laura Hopwood slinks around sexily as the evil Tamora, all the others do what is required of them with skill and Jung Han Kim seated at a drum which gets beaten from time to time controls the frenzied goings on. Whatever else this is a theatrical experience full of blood, guts and gusto to be relished even if one does not always know what is going on.
Bassanius: Fiona Battersby.
Demetrius/Lucius: David Couter.
Marcus/Charon: Mark Curley.
Tamora: Laura Hopwood.
Titus Andronicus: Charles Sandford.
Lavinia: Miranda Shrapnell.
Aaron/Mutius: Tendai Humphrey Sitima.
All other parts played by members of the cast.
Director: Jung Han Kim.
Set & Costume Designer: Yole Lambrecht.
Lighting Designer: Petr Vocka.
Dramaturg & Assistant Director: Stevan Mijailovic.