I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous heading to Titus at Q Theatre on Wednesday night. I’m terrible with gore and it really doesn’t get much gorier than Titus Andronicus. As S. Clark Hulse said (in a quote I may have read on Sparknotes whilst brushing up on the plot beforehand), it’s a play of “14 killings, 9 of them on stage, 6 severed members, 1 rape (or 2 or 3, depending on how you count), 1 live burial, 1 case of insanity and 1 of cannibalism–an average of 5.2 atrocities per act, or one for every 97 lines.”
I needn’t have been worried. Fractious Tash’s production doesn’t indulge in the potential for it to be a bloodshed bonanza, which I appreciated. Apart from it being far more tolerable for gore-averse theatregoers like myself, there is more to Titus Andronicus which risks being drowned (literally) in fake blood.
Instead of fake blood, we got a clever engagement with the themes of revenge and the collapse of political order. Made all the more strong and interesting by the child motif which appeared as a playground game being played as the audience came in and repeatedly through the presence of soft toys and the use of wooden sticks for swords. What developed was lost-boyesque. In the darker times, it bordered on Lord of the Flies. It felt wild and chaotic, driven by very raw male energy.
Titus was originally performed at Unitec last year. It’s been supported into the Q Theatre by the Q Presents programme (a great way of giving small companies a leg up so their works can be seen more widely).The cast, all graduates of Unitec, are a great advertisement for them. I was particularly impressed by Eli Matthewson whose Lavinia was haunting but all were very strong.
As someone who doesn’t know the script well I did not miss any of what was cut to abbreviate the play to 90 minutes. On the other hand, I actually quite appreciated not having to sit through 3 hours. I’m a huge fan of the Bard and think it’s important that the full plays are still performed, but this sort of abbreviated version is so much more accessible.
The cast is dressed, uniformly in black, key costume pieces are donned to introduce and distinguish them. The set is basic and brilliantly functional, creating exciting moments when it’s used creatively. Likewise props are minimal and a bit obscure. Lavinia, for example, is wheeled on in a shopping trolley after her attack. It feels a bit post-apocalyptic.
Fresh and energetic and very accessible. This would be one to take young theatre enthusiasts. Well done.
8.00pm 29th May- 8th Jun
The Loft, Q Theatre