Titus Andronicus at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse review

Titus Andronicus at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse review


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Shakespeare’s first tragedy is not only his most violent play, it is one of the most violent ever written. Consequently, it presents a challenge to directors as to how to represent the hand-lopping, tongue-ripping, rape, cannibalism and murder that seasons the play.

In order to avoid the serial faintings that accompany more realistic productions, candles are used to represent anatomical parts as they are sliced and diced and tossed around the stage; snuffed candle flames represent the many deaths, along with a tolling bell. All of this is conducted by a pyjama-clad female cast with malevolent glee.

The stage is set for mayhem and revenge when Roman general Titus (Katy Stephens) is betrayed by arrogant emperor Saturninus (Lucy McCormick), who has taken the conquered Goth queen Tamora (Kirsten Foster) as his consort.

The increasingly unhinged Titus and slippery Tamora negotiate their way through a jungle of plot and counterplot which also involves the devious Aaron (Kibong Tanji), Tamora’s secret lover and Shakespeare’s first Black character.

The pastiche murder ballads – especially the trigger-warning lyrics of the opening number – are hilariously effective.

And the cast’s clarity of diction and sense of mischief is stimulating throughout.

Hats off to Stephens and McCormick, as well as Georgia-Mae Myers as the mutilated Lavinia and the multi-tasking Beau Holland who plays eight roles, including a fly, with equal skill and a twinkle in her eye.

  • Titus Andronicus Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London, until April 15. Tickets: 020 7401 9919

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