In the RSC’s recent production of Titus Andronicus all the foulest deeds of mankind come to roast. Murder, affair, execution, rape and even cannibalism are unashamedly showcased in Shakespeare’s bloodiest play. As I found myself watching execution after execution I found it hard to believe that this play could have possibly been penned by the same great man who also wrote about fairies dancing in the wood and young lovers coming together in merry song.
Titus Andronicus, a great general who has fought greatly and lost much, returns to Rome to much praise from his family and supporters. However the decision to refuse his nomination for the throne, coupled with his backing of the weak Saturninus for emperor, starts a chain of uncontainable blood and devastation for all sides. Formerly persecuted by Titus, the empress Tamora and her lover Aaron sees to the destruction of the general by inflicting increasingly gory and brutal punishments on his family. As the bodies started to pile up on stage, I was left on the edge of my seat, wondering not who will survive, but how will they die.
This recent adaptation of the Roman-based play is set in the 21st Century. In the opening scene, actors in hoodies climb the fences and cry out of injustice as Rome continues to crumble, only to be swiftly beaten down by highly-clad police officers. In my comfy seat with cool air conditioning, I was witnessing a society falling apart right in front of me, knowing that there was nothing I could do to stop the pain and misery. It’s that feeling of helplessness, that visualising of a dystopian future that is more relatable now than ever before and that sadness that what you’re seeing on stage is happening around the world as I type this very review. The language changes, but the darkness of human nature always prevails.
This classical play is attributed with a suburb acting cast, headed with David Troughton, Hannah Morris, Patrick Dury and Nia Gwynne. I cried with Titus as he cradled the head of his son, felt rage at the sight of his raped daughter and felt a sick, twisted joy from witnessing the execution of the perpetrators. For once in my life my very British emotions and civil nature were reduced to their base, primitive, level. I was hooked from the very start until the very end.
Forget notions of concealed knives under armpits and melodramatic deaths, in the space of three hours there you will be forced to absorb some of the most difficult of moral and emotional scenarios known to man. The stage will be covered in more than just the spit of the actors. You’ll witness the closest thing to a real-life public execution, scenes of female empowerment which you’ll loathe and outright racism that you cannot shout out against. Leave your political correctness in the clock room, this is an Elizabethan play like no other. More blood please!
Rating: 5 stars
For more information, including showing times and tickets, visit the RSC’s website: https://www.rsc.org.uk/titus-andronicus/