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Friday, 28 June 2013

Titus Andronicus - Royal Shakespeare Company


William Shakespeare's brutal revenge play Titus Andronicus is currently being staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon where it plays alongside two other plays, A Mad World My Masters and Candide (which opens later in the year). The play originally written between 1588 and 1593 is set in the latter days of the Roman Empire and tells the fictional tale of Titus, a general in the Roman army, who is engaged in a cycle of revenge with Tamora, the Queen of the Goths.
Rose Reynolds as Lavinia. Photo - Simon Annand
The play is Shakespeare's bloodiest and most violent work and there is certainly some moments which unnerved me. As soon as you enter the auditorium you see three bodies on trollies being attended be a nurse, this gives a real feel and atmosphere to what you're about to witness. The feel of the play can be intense and somewhat upsetting especially in the scene when Lavinia is first seen after being raped and tortured by Tamora's sons Chiron and Demetrius. The sheer brutality of how Lavinia looks is genuinely shocking, and much to the horror of some of the younger members of the audience on the front row who had to hide behind their hands during the scene. Although there is some uncomfortable moments this is a highly entertaining play/production.

Stephen Boxer as Titus and Rose Reynolds as Lavinia. Photo - Simon Annand
I must highly praise the acting company who performed superbly, Stephen Boxer as Titus and Katy Stephens as Tamora lead the play brilliantly, I found them both very watchable and strong. Rose Reynolds as Lavinia brings real emotion to the part which makes the characters horrific transformation so believable. Due to the indisposition of John Hopkins, we got the understudy Ben Deery playing Saturninus, and I must say I thought he was excellent. There isn't a weak performance among the cast, Kevin Havey's Aaron, Matthew Needham's Lucius and Richard Durden's Marcus are all worthy of mentions. I also must praise director, Michael Fentiman for his directing choices on this production, it really is an outstanding production.

Katy Stephens as Tamora. Photo - Simon Annand
I was lucky to attend the Blogging Event for this production in the Swan which saw a small number of us watch the performance before heading to the Ferguson Room where we got the chance for a question and answer session with the play's director, Michael Fentiman and 3 of the cast, Stephen Boxer (Titus), Katy Stephens (Tamora) and Rose Reynolds (Lavinia). This opportunity was fascinating to hear the thoughts of all 4 of them on the various aspects of the piece, from the amount of blood they used, to the sets, to how they wanted their characters to come across and then we finished on a discussion about how Shakespeare was a genius for putting in comic moments straight after a death/dark moment.

Post Show Q+A, left to right - Rose Reynolds, Stephen Boxer, Michael Fentiman and Katy Stephens
All in all, I found the performance superb, I was immersed by the production, the sets wonderfully designed by Colin Richmond, the music and sound by Tom Mills, the lighting by Chris Davey and Richard Pinners illusions all made the performance great to watch. The actors all perform outstandingly. I highly recommend that you all catch this production running in the Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon until October 26th 2013.

The trailer for the production, please note that there are scenes of graphic nature.

Update - I re-saw the production for a second on July 6th 2013, this time with the full company, I equally enjoyed it, and I highly enjoyed John Hopkins' performance as Saturninus.

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