Titus Andronicus was Shakespeare's answer to the popular blood and guts tragedies his contemporaries were churning out; the Jacobean theatre equivalent of Slasher Films I suppose.
It has a typically complicated plot but all you really need to know is that it is all about revenge. Stabbing, hand-severing, tongue removing, raping, grinding up your enemies bones and feeding them to their mother revenge. The usual type.
So setting it among the turf wars of 1980s skinhead gangs feels like a natural fit right down to the street-accented delivery of the bards words. There is sarcasm, contempt, facing off and jostling aplenty in the delivery of the initial confrontations and a particularly puffed-up petulance from the younger characters which works nicely.
Shakespeare plays aren't known for having small casts and Titus is no different - there are 14 actors in this production which seems extraordinary for a tiny pub theatre. I confess I was concerned when I saw how small the stage is and whether they would all fit on but by keeping set and props to a minimum (a sofa and a St George's flag) it never felt over-crowded which is testament to Zoe Ford's direction.
I've commented before about how some actors in small spaces have a tendency to perform as if they are on a big stage which can feel a little over blown and hammy but Titus is such a big, brutal story with lots of angry characters on the verge of violence it kind of gets away with some chewing the scenery.
Honourable performance mentions go to David Vaughan Knight who manages to add some depth to the vengeful Titus and Stanley J Browne as the manipulative and machiavellian Aaron. And also Maya Thomas who plays the tricky role of Lavinia for keeping the character present, giving her a silent voice after she is rendered dumb by the tongue 'incident' about half way through.
Yes with such a physical production you lose some subtlety in the character development and motives and the dialogue did get a little swallowed up in shouting occasionally but main plot points shine through, even if they are typically outlandish at times (the dressing up as revenge, rape and murder scene is always going to be tricky to make believable).
This is good solid pub Shakespeare and I'm going to give it four stars. Titus Andronicus runs at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden until May 27.
Yes there is one, Adam Henderson Scott was in A Moon For the Misbegotten at the Old Vic which starred Kevin Spacey who famously spotted Mr W when he was a RADA student and then interviewed him for the Guardian when he was playing Hamlet.