TITUS ANDRONICUS: William Shakespeare
RSC, The Swan, Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: 2h 50, one interval, in rep till 26 October 2013
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 23 05 13
Making great sense of the unfathomable.
Michael Fentiman makes sense of this brutal play – aided by a strong team, led impressively by Stephen Boxer.
While not everyone in Shakespeare’s time enjoyed public executions many, we are led to believe, did. People were burned alive with the authorities endeavouring to use green wood while friends of the person executed tried to bring on the death on more speedily. Traitors were hanged, drawn and quartered. Hence when Titus A has Tamora’s son hacked to death it may well have been perceived as par for the course – a reaction quite different from ours today.
To us the brutality of the play can seem excessive, over-the-top, so the play is notoriously difficult to bring off. Assisted by passionate, truthful and skilled acting, Fentiman enables us to see through the violence; to understand the violence as a metaphor for a corrupt society. ‘When will this fearful slumber have an end?’ Titus asks – and Fentiman invites us to ask this questions of ourselves and our own society. Violence and death are frequently ritualised, as in the suspended interment of Titus’s sons or the killing of Tamora’s sons, Chiron and Demetrius.
In a stunningly theatrical climax, murder ascends into farce. TITUS, darkly, follows a farce structure – Titus’s execution of Alarbus being the act from which all else stems, the action spinning faster and faster; ratcheted up as Titus follows in Tamora’s footsteps as avenger.
The RSC’s acting company is in cracking form. Stephen Boxer, with consummate skill, navigates the dangerous slopes of Titus’s character, giving us a totally believable human being; Richard Durden fleshes out Marcus Andronicus, creating a powerful partnership with Boxer. Rose Reynolds pitches the role of Lavinia at exactly the right level and Katy Stephens is a fabulously feisty Tamora, Queen of the Goths. Kevin Harvey brings edginess and earthiness to Aaron.
Tom Mills is credited as Music and Sound, his percussive contribution is much to be admired.
Joe Bannister – Quintus
Ellie Beaven – Handmaid/Concubine
Stephen Boxer – Titus
George David -Young Lucius
Ben Deery – Publius/Messenger
Richard Durden – Marcus
Richard Goulding – Bassianus
Kevin Harvey – Aaron
Hal Hewetson – Young Lucius
John Hopkins – Saturninus
Gwilym Lloyd – Aemilius
Harry Mcentire – Mutius
Perry Millward – Demetrius
Matthew Needham – Lucius
Ciarán Owens – Martius/Goth Warrior
Nicholas Prasad – Alarbus/Sempronius
Rose Reynolds – Lavinia
Sarah Ridgeway – Goth Queen/Concubine
David Rubin – Caius
Katy Stephens – Tamora
Badria Timimi – Nurse
Dwane Walcott – Clown
Jonny Weldon – Chiron
Director – Michael Fentiman
Designer – Colin Richmond
Lighting – Chris Davey
Music and Sound – Tom Mills
Movement – Ann Yee
Fights – Kate Waters