BWW REVIEW: Guest Reviewer Kym Vaitiekus Shares His Thoughts On Bell Shakespeare Titus Andronicus

BWW REVIEW: Guest Reviewer Kym Vaitiekus Shares His Thoughts On Bell Shakespeare Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus, Sydney Opera House 30/8/2019.


Titus Andronicus- prepare to be challenged.

Titus Andronicus is a complex tale which the program notes describe as:
21 children left dead on the battleground, Titus returns home to Rome with Queen of the Goths, Tamora, and her three sons as prisoners of war. Titus Andronicus is Shakespeare's terrifying tale of two families locked in a violent cycle of chaos and bloody vengeance.

Political intrigue and corruption turn to rape, cannibalism, mutilation and murder as people become pawns in a torturous battle of wills. Shakespeare dives into the depths of humankind's most vile traits and invites audiences to revel in the horrors that are found within. Grotesquely violent and boldly experimental, Shakespeare's bloodiest play is an interrogation of power and paranoia.

Bell Shakespeare presents the often debated Titus Andronicus. Scholars have had opposing views on it's worth, relevance and authorship.

This Play has come in and out of favour since it's creation. A reflection of the times at hand when performed. And a perception on it's validity to society when being presented. Either too far fetched or too close to the bone.

Director Adena Jacobs re-imagines this tale with an inventive dystopian eye that marries eclectic styles and genres using inventive staging, video projections and a commanding soundscape. The scene changes are deftly executed with a textured stage curtain that looks like a cross between a vintage quilt and a skinned torso. This performance presents a night that is unique for the audience , a collection of experiences with glimpses of Bruegel, Arbus, Tarrantino and Caravaggio.

Jane Montgomery Griffiths embodies the role of Titus with a compelling, engaging and a layered performance. The cross gender casting leads to a further exploration re the role of revenge in our hearts and in society. Griffiths wears a costume that represents the female naked body which is later peeled back to reveal her own naked body, a clever metaphor challenging the audience's perception and interpretation. Melita Jurisic's Tamorais is realistically melodramatic. She presents the characters tortured life with passion and a manic essence.

Some of the other cast seem to be playing the lines and intent without being their characters. Every line is played as important, therefore no lines seem important. This may have been one of Jacobs devices to add to the concoction of symbolism but it seemed out of place when compared to the main performances.

Eugene Teh design is tantalizing and intriguing to watch. There are a combination of styles and influences from different eras and genres. Teh manages to bring them together in a unified representation of a tortured, bohemian almost post apocalyptic vision. Max Lyandvert's sound design is deep and loud. This supports the brutality of rape, murder and revenge, it also emphasizes the brutality of the heart and souls of these unscrupulous, tortured characters. The soundscape invites one into the character's energies. Unfortunately, the actors were without microphones and sitting in the back row there was dialogue missed and in scenes with two or three sources of simultaneous voices, it was hard to decipher the laborious text.

The screens both in foreground and as background were used with varying effect and purpose. The stage violence was mostly implied and the more graphic imagery was projected. The screens used for the background had a join in the centre that was made obvious my the variance in the luminous of the projectors, a minor flaw but somewhat distracting.

If you venture to experience Bell's current production of Titus, prepare to be challenged. Challenged by the the text, one of Shakespeare's most maligned Plays. And challenged by this interpretation, Jacobs engaging imagery and symbolism may confront and confuse.

If you are a fan of Titus Andronicus see this as further study into it's themes and concepts. If you are new to Shakespeare prepare for a lengthy discussion and the bar after the show.

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From This Author Jade Kops