Review: The RSC stages Titus Andronicus - shares in stage blood soar
Titus, you see, is Shakespeare's horror play. I described it in my Camden reivew, as the Bard's equivalent of a slasher movie. A gory tale of revenge sparked by the slaughter of the Queen of Goth's son by the battle-victorious Roman Titus that spills over into rape, mutilation and murder, lots and lots of murder.
No ones family members are safe as Tamora (Katy Stephens), the Queen of the Goth's who is now married to the Emperor of Rome, plots with her Moorish lover Aaron (Kevin Harvey) to get back at Titus (Stephen Boxer). And Tamora doesn't take any half measure. She has Titus's daughter Lavinia (Rose Reynolds) raped and mutilated, her husband Bassianus (Richard Goulding) murdered - he just happens to be the Emperor's brother - and then frames the murder on Titus's two sons Quintus (Joe Bannister) and Martius (Ciarán Owens).
Naturally Titus doesn't take any of this lying down and it all builds nicely to a dinner party to remember, where the content of the delicious looking pie make the horse meat scandal look like a slight mix up in the kitchen.
But this being the RSC they don't just go to town with the blood, they've rummaged around in the box of stage trickery and pulled out all sorts of staging devices - who can't be impressed by a beautiful roll-top bath appearing in the centre of the stage from which the Emporer suddenly sits up, mid rub-a-dub-dub?
Someone has also decided that the best way to clear bodies off the stage is just to clip their feet to wires and hoick them upwards into the gods. (Some very brave and trusting actors in the company.)
Director Michael Fentiman has also managed to tease out some humour - who couldn't laugh as new the new Emperor is calling for calm to his people who are all lying slaughtered at his feet? This isn't a play, necessarily, about character development. Action speaks louder than words but there are still some great performances. Katy Stephen's plays a brilliantly remorseless and vampish Tamora, her dresses slashed to the thigh, chunky heels and wonderfully goth-style mohawk hair. She is not a mama you'd want to cross.
Her two thuggish sons Chiron and Demetrius are played by the youthful Jonny Weldon and Perry Millward (who I last saw in the wonderful Torch Song Trilogy) which works really well as they bicker and squabble and generally behave with a naive immorality.
My only grumble, other than not getting a blood splat is with the scene where the mutilated and ravished Lavinia (Rose Reynolds) appears to her uncle Marcus (Richard Durdan) and I really wanted him to go to her and comfort her instead he keeps a repulsed distance. It felt like an opportunity missed for some weightier emotion rather than rage and anger. It is a small point and I can understand why it has been played like that.
So what was I thinking as I left this production of Titus Andronicus? Well it certainly lived up to my big production expectations and now I want to see Propeller do it.
Titus Andronicus runs until October 26 in the RSC's Swan Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon
There are at least half a dozen second degree connections so I've picked my favourite Richard Durden was in the Emporer and Galilean with the wonderful Andrew Scott who of course was in Cock with Mr W.