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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus
Published on Tuesday, 06 August 2013

3 stars

C venues - C nova (venue website)
31 Jul, 1-17 Aug, 12:15pm-2:00pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

With four separate productions of Titus Andronicus in this year's Fringe programme, you’d be forgiven for thinking the arts community seems a little maniacal and angry this year. And there's no shortage of old-school fake blood effects in this production: set against the gloomy backdrop of Soviet Russia and staged as a graphic novel, this is Shakespeare meets Sin City. Titus Andronicus will never be a pleasant play to watch (as the shocked and appalled first-timer sitting next to me attested to), but the performances in this production make it an entertaining adaptation.

As the blurb about this show states, Titus Andronicus features fourteen killings (nine onstage), six castrations, a brutal rape, a live burial and a case of cannibalism. So if you're not into horror, I strongly advise against watching this show – because the brutality in this particular production is rarely of the 'fade to black' type. The play compresses all the violence from the original script into an hour and forty-five minutes, making for an incredibly intense viewing experience. And by far the most difficult part to stomach is the rape of Lavinia – a scene that spares the audience no discomfort.

Aside from the Tarantino levels of brutality, I was hugely impressed by the performances in the show, particularly the convincingly strong characterisation of Ben Blackburn's Titus, Rachel Jones' femme fatale Tomora and Guido Caraciuti's enthralling Aaron. The production shows a great respect and understanding of the original text, even if the ending seems a little rushed in places.

But unfortunately for the aptly-named Deadly Theatre Productions, the adaptation doesn't quite work – if only because I think they could have committed to it more. The comic-book graphics at the back of the stage were a fantastic way to let the audience know about the setting; but because they haven’t fully grounded the theatre in Soviet era language, the Moscow setting seems jarring and out of place. I don't usually advocate changing the language of a Shakespeare work, but in this case saying "Comrades" instead of "Romans" would hardly have posed any threat to the production's integrity. As it is, the context change seems unnecessary. It's a shame too, because Soviet Russia is an inspired place to set Titus Andronicus - the violence and political themes fit seamlessly into such a milieu.

Nevertheless, this was one of the better attempts at Shakespeare I've seen of late. The young cast deliver some powerful acting and, judging from the enthralled expressions and gasps of the audience throughout, the show didn't disappoint. Personally however, I’ve taken it as an example of why adapting Shakespeare to other contexts is a difficult task – one that treads a delicate line between too much and not enough. I applaud the company for their originality of ideas, but I just wish they’d pushed the boundaries a little more. After over four centuries, even Titus needs a bit of a shake-up!

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