Friday, 7 August 2015

Edinburgh Festival Fringe - Titus Andronicus Review

 Titus Andronicus – Smooth Faced Gentlemen (an all female production) at the Pleasance Dome, Kingdome, Venue 75.

 

Tamora the Goth Queen and Aaron


This is a fast paced production, with some background music and sound effects used sparingly but effectively. Dynamic and full of energy, we are immediately caught up in the sparring and infighting of the disputed succession to the Empire among the brothers Bassianus and Saturninus. 

The general Titus Andronicus, returning after years away fighting the Goths – with the Goth queen and her sons as prisoners –  is offered the position of Emperor. He is generous and gives this position to Saturninus, who is clearly boastful, egocentric and stirs up trouble deliberately. At first he claims Lavinia, Titus' daughter, as his queen, but she is already bethrothed to Bassianus who is furious at this suggestion. Saturninus then claims Tamora, the defeated Goth queen, as his Empress, and she is outwardly happy with this decision. She had pleaded with Titus for her eldest son's life but according to custom, he had to be put to death. And Saturninus' trouble-making is no match for his Queen's double dealing and plotting. Tamora is determined to get her revenge because she has begged in vain for her son's life in front of all the Romans, and because of this humiliation, she hates the Empire and all things Roman.

Further plotting between her and Aaron her lover, means that Tamora's quarrelsome sons Chiron and Demetrius murder Bassianus and rape and disfigure Lavinia, Titus' daughter. Titus' sons are blamed and put to death. Titus then seems to have lost his reason but after he finds out who was to blame for Lavinia's rape and torture he engineers things so that all the guilty parties are punished.

The vivid energy and emotional authenticity at times had me damp-eyed – as well as laughing, (yes, there is humour here too!). What struck me particularly is the movement, the choreography which has the lithe and sensuous beauty of dance – this light, sure-footed movement both accentuates the horror and destructive nature of the darker human emotions – and creates too the masks of drama and so – both reveals and detaches from the action. There's also clever use of lighting and shadowplay and terrific performances by all the cast.

This takes place in the far-off days – in historical time – of the Roman Empire. But it is viscerally in the present. The part that revenge plays, however denied, in humanity's self destructive acts, that has not gone out of fashion. 

If you're not afraid of dollops of blood (red paint) and bucketfuls of woe I highly recommend this production.

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