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Titus Andronicus - Shakespeare's Globe (Review)

Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare's Globe. Photo by John Tramper

Review by Oli Burley

I WATCHED Titus Andronicus at The Globe fearing the worst – and that’s what I got. And I was gripped.

Rape, murder, mutilation: director Lucy Bailey serves up all three raw, complete with Roman trimmings, in a production that is worryingly satisfying.

From the outset, William Shakespeare’s most gruesome play is given a doom-laden feel by the black velarium that covers the theatre’s open roof.

The awning traps in the sound, magnifying Titus’s triumphant return from defeating the Goths, but also keeps out the light as the play darkens.

And how it does so. Never before have I seen mankind unravel before my eyes in such a systematic, savage manner.

Douglas Hodge excels as Titus, Rome’s famed general, who takes brutal revenge on Tamora, Queen of the Goths (Geraldine Alexander), for atrocities done to his family.

Glorious in victory, broken in despair, manic in retaliation – Hodge drives on the action until, with no tears left to shed, he orchestrates the play’s revoltingly comic finale.

His strength of fervour is matched only by the utter lack of remorse shown by the Moor Aaron (Shaun Parkes), whose lust for Tamora is electric.

The pair egg her sons, Chiron (Richard Riddell) and Demetrius (Sam Alexander), on to foul deeds, including the brutalisation of Titus’s daughter, Lavinia, played captivatingly by Laura Rees.

The resulting chaos is not just played out on stage, but also in the yard as Bailey gives her actors licence to roam amongst the audience.

Time and again the protagonists, pushed around on wheeled towers, scatter the groundlings while soldiers and hunters cause equal confusion in the crowd.

In this way, Bailey transforms the theatre into an arena, dragging the public into the “wilderness of tigers” that is Rome and making them complicit in its suffering.

The final distance between Aaron, strung up on a platform in the yard, and the liberating Lucius (David Sturzaker), who is rightly centre stage, is vast – in metres and morality.

Yet it is difficult not to collude in the violence and probably explains why, despite my misgivings, I was later drawn to the bottled ‘theatre blood’ on sale in The Globe shop.

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Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare’s Globe
Director – Lucy Bailey
Designer – William Dudley
Music – Django Bates

CAST: Douglas Hodge; Shaun Parkes; Lavinia Laura Rees; Geraldine Alexander; Richard O’Callaghan.
Running time: 3hrs (incl interval)
Booking until Friday, October 6, 2006.
Telephone: 020 7401 9919