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September 24, 2007 | by  | in Theatre |
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Titus Andronicus

Rape, murder, incest, Goths, orgies, dismemberment and even cannibalism, Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus has everything that, in my humble opinion, a decent play needs. The only thing really missing (aside from an ending which makes sense!) is a good old gay pash, although a couple of the girls in this production did come close, in a bizarre gender-bending kind of way. Stagecraft’s production of Shakespeare’s goriest play relies heavily on blood and guts to draw its punters into the intense universe that is Shakespearean tragedy. However the final product is only…alright.

Titus (played by Canadian Don Quiring) has returned to Rome from his many adventures abroad. Most of his sons are dead but at least he has captured Tamora (Yvette Giles), the fiery Queen of the Goths and a few her sons, amongst them Aaron (Rory Lim, colloquially known as ‘Rory from Karori’). What follows is a delicate scheme of sex, murder and revenge, as one life is traded for another until pretty much everyone is dead.

If I am being honest (and I am always being honest with my readers), there were a lot of things in this piece that irked me. Productions of Shakespeare are sometimes hindered by a lack of unification. They often start acceptably enough, until three quarters of the way through a piece I find myself asking, ‘Who are these people? Where are these people? And what the fuck are doing there?’ Unfortunately, these very questions simmered up during Titus Andronicus. I felt it lacked a basic sense of unity. Swords and cauldrons were paired up with paper bags. A random burst of heavy metal followed on from the subjective, atmospheric sounds of Titus’ madness. The set, though quite nice in its own right, denoted a meadow of some sort, which for me only served to create a kind of ‘nowhere in particular’ kind of feel. I think that, ultimately, the show was missing a sense style.

If there was one moment that really did grind my gears, it was the rape scene. This was one of the first acts of stage violence in the show, and could have been made into a really outrageous and gripping moment. Unfortunately, most of the key components clashed. The male rapists were played by women, which removed any sense of perceived threat to the scene as we were too aware that they were merely actors – and not very convincing ones at that. I was also disappointed that the director went for irony, playing one of those 1920’s love songs. This technique removed any shock value, which sorely disappointed me.

Of course, every show has highs and lows. Some of the slashing and dismemberment was very fun and quite well done, and the cast have clearly had a good time and made a wonderful effort. However, I feel that, in a time when Shakespeare has saturated literature, his words alone are not enough to carry a production. A Shakespearean play needs clarity and harmony in order to be truly effective.

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Robert Hickey
Produced by Stagecraft
Gryphon Theatre,
September 12-25

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