Everyone knows just how insane Titus Andronicus is. It’s full of chopped up body parts, lots of blood, and even some cannibalism. But when I kept hearing about people passing out in Lucy Bailey’s Globe production, I wondered if it could be that violent. It really really definitely can. Three people were carried out in front of me, and we hadn’t even got to the interval yet. It’s so insanely sick, I loved it.
Roman General Titus (William Houston) returns from the war with the Goths, and having conquered them, he brings back with him Tamora (Indira Varma), the queen and her sons as prisoners. When he kills her eldest son, she plots her revenge. This leads to the deaths of Titus’ sons, and the rape of his daughter Lavinia (Flora Spencer-Longhurst). Blood begets blood, until only a young boy remains on stage.
The performances were brilliant. Houston is an amazing Titus, and the contrasts in his character are brilliantly performed. For me, Varma stole the show as Tamora. She was spectacularly evil, and wonderfully comedic at points. The sequence with Tamora and her sons pretending to be Revenge, Rape and Murder was especially enjoyable to watch. The masks and the costumes that were used during this part of the play were reminiscent of Chinese theatre, which looked great on stage. The bright colours stood out in front of the completely blacked out stage, which designer William Dudley has covered with black material. The roof was also covered, but we probably didn’t need it as the terrible weather created the dark atmosphere for us.
The groundlings were as much of the performance as the actual cast. The pit had been transformed into the whole of Rome, and the characters were moving in and out of the space. They were pretty aggressive in their approach though. The constant shouts of “MOVE, MOVE” made me and my friend laugh hysterically, while we watched the confused audience members being shoved around by the performers.
One small teeny tiny criticism though… The dining scene reminded me of Julie Taymore’s film version, where Anthony Hopkin’s Titus was dressed very much like Houston’s Titus, and the whole sequence was quite similar. The thing missing in Bailey’s was the grotesquely huge pies, which Taymore had used. I think having a bigger pie would have complimented the scene’s disturbing yet comic situation, as well as allowing people to actually see the pie (I was sitting in the front row of the lower gallery, in the centre, and couldn’t actually see it).
Yeah it’s pretty bloody, but we don’t actually see much of the violence until the end of the play, as most of it happens off-stage. Don’t let the blood and gore put you off though because this is an amazing show. You should definitely go and see it. I think if Tarantino does, he’d be pretty impressed by it.