by William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s Globe 21 New Globe Walk SE In rep to 13 July 2014.
Runs 3hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 May.
The Globe becomes a smoking pit of hell for Shakespeare’s early horror-show.
Hung are the Heavens with black. The Globe’s balcony is covered, its musicians invisible, while the three stage doorways look like portals of doom. The auditorium doors are used for processions as triumphant characters are born aloft, or on carts – and by audience members fleeing the violence on show.
Titus Andronicus is a long play, with extensive graphic violence. Perhaps that’s why there is only one, captioned, access performance. To have one’s ears sup full of audio-described horrors explaining the limb-chopping, body-assaulting, sudden murdering that goes on, let alone the appearance of characters in mutilated form, could easily become excessive. And, in view of the fate awaiting Roman hero Titus’ daughter Lavinia, a signed performance might seem tactless.
Lucy Bailey’s production doesn’t hold back on visceral horror – you could imagine parchments to the press from Disgusted of Ye Tunbridge Welles in the early 1590s. Nor, though, does it over-indulge them, unlike Titus forcing on his enemies second helpings of the pie containing their recently-baked offspring.
William Shakespeare drew on the competitively gory fashion for revenge plays in his script, and for modern audiences there’s probably too many words to suit the action. But they have a point. Under Emperor Saturninus, glib, contemptuous and lust-led, giving Rome over to Goth Queen Tamora, her brutal sons and secret Black lover – villains all – because he fancies her, the state finds it has handed power to a corrupt leader, turning power to his own advantage.
William Houston’s bluff, bearded Titus is the opposite, so ultra-loyal he backs the eldest son to succeed his father as Emperor, regardless of the man’s nature, and condemns his own son for speaking against authority. It takes him, and his beloved children, to torment and death before, maddened, he determines to take a revenge as remorselessly devised and executed as the acts of his enemies; cruelty here is aggravated by the malice with which it’s planned.
For strong stomachs only, and performed with an apt external vigour, it’s a play where the piled-up body-count of murder and mutilation carries a warning about misguided trust and blind loyalty.
Saturninus: Matthew Needham.
Bassianus/Bird Seller: Steffan Donnelly.
Titus Andronicus: William Houston.
Marcus Andronicus: Ian Gelder.
Lavinia: Flora Spencer-Longhurst.
Lucius: Dyfan Dwyfor.
Martius/Valentine: Jake Mann.
Quintus/Caius: Paul Ham.
Mutius: Jamie Wilkes.
Young Lucius: Ethan Hammer/Jude Willoughby.
Publius: Jamie Wilkes.
Bacchus/Emilius: David Shaw-Parker.
Nurse: Bryonie Pritchard.
Tamora: Indira Varma.
Alarbus/Goth Soldier: Nicholas Karimi.
Demetrius: Samuel Edward-Cook.
Chiron: Brian Martin.
Aaron: Obi Abili.
Bestiari/Attendants/Goth Soldiers: Rupert Baldwin, Arun Blair-Mangat, Will Bridges, Joseph Cappellazzi, Rupert Charmak, Giorgio Galassi.
Director: Lucy Bailey.
Designer: William Dudley.
Composer: Django Bates.
Musical Director: Adrian Woodward.
Choreographer: Siân Williams.
Fight director: Terry King.
Text associate: Giles Block.
Movement associate: Glynn MacDonald.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Assistant director: Tara Robinson.
Assistant composer: Tim Adnitt.
Text assistants: Zoe Ford, Nicola Pollard.