Posts Tagged ‘Brian Cox’

I’ve only seen this rarely produced Shakespeare revenge tragedy a few times, the first time c.35 years ago and the last c.15 years ago, so I felt ready to see it again, particularly at the lovely candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. The space looked as gorgeous as ever and the opening song set a blackly comic tone brilliantly, but sadly it was all downhill from there.

Titus returns from war victorious, lauded by the people, but declines the invitation to become the next Emperor. The prisoners he brought back from the war include Tamora, queen of the Goths, her lover Aaron the Moor and her three sons. When they are liberated by the new Emperor, now married to Tamora, they vow revenge, murder two of Titus’ sons and rape and maim his daughter Lavinia. His revenge on them is to kill them, inviting their mother Tamora and the Emperor, now her husband, to dinner for a rather unique pie.

Despite the fact the play features murders, rape, maiming and cannibalism, this is a bloodless, bodyless affair. Nine women in silk pyjamas, in different pastel shades, all with hair worn back with a pigtail take the stage. They play all of the roles. Each barbaric act is marked symbolically by the despatch of a candle. It’s not that I’m particularly bloodthirsty, but this emotionless take just doesn’t bring out the horror of the events unfolding. The comedy becomes more silly than black.

I struggle to understand the thinking behind this interpretation. I considered leaving at the interval, but decided to see it through and it did get more passionate, but never warranted the description of revenge tragedy. I couldn’t stop memories of a definitive production thirty-five years ago at the Swan Theatre in Stratford with Brian Cox as a manic Titus in chef’s whites flooding my brain, and I couldn’t engage with this production at all.

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