Preview: Titus Andronicus

Stage

Landing neatly on the week of Halloween, this production of Shakespeare’s

(disputed) early tragedy Titus Andronicus promises a dark, gory spectacle, perfect

for the season. When I visited the rehearsals I was only able to see a section of the

play, but within that short time was taken on a breathless journey through passion

and violence.The initial teasing and plotting descended suddenly into a conclusion

which, even in the relaxed atmosphere of a rehearsal, had a power that made it

difficult to watch and which should prove terrifying in performance.

Of the actors I was able to see I was particularly impressed by the vicious Chiron

and the lilting, mocking Lavinia. The contrast between the teasing interplay at the

beginning of Lavinia’s appearance and her being dragged screaming from the stage,

begging for death, gave the cruelty real pathos which promises to captivate and

shock.

The focus of the play, of course, is Titus, played by Joseph Stevenson. As the

action progresses violence is coupled with Titus’ growing madness and the manic

combination serves to create a dark humour. One of the challenges of this

production will be to channel this, combined with the play’s wild heights of

savagery, into a relatable human tragedy rather than working against it. Although

sadly I wasn’t able to see Titus in action, director Lottie Ferguson makes it clear

that this transition is at the heart of her intentions for the play and I share her

excitement to see it come together.

The stone backing to the stage and the alcoves set into it, which will be bathed in

red light, should make this an immersive experience. You can expect some degree

of Roman styling, but much of the staging work has gone into the blood that flows

profusely throughout the play. As the same cover for the stage is to be used each

night, the floor will get progressively more grisly with each performance : a vivid

indicator of the nature of the play, each night will play out over the stains of the

previous.

The play is to be performed almost entirely according to the original script,

though some of the later scenes have been altered to create an ending with a

significantly different feeling. For those of you who already know the play well

there’ll be an entirely new interpretation as the curtain falls, while for the many

who don’t there’s an opportunity to see a powerful, but rarely staged Shakespeare

for the first time, in what will be a gripping, blood-dripping show.

Titus Andronicus will be performed from 27th to 30th of October in the Corpus

Christi Auditorium.