Titus isn’t renowned as Shakespeare’s greatest play, although it is his goriest. With fourteen deaths, a live burial and some rape and cannibalism thrown in for good measure it’s more than likely to unsettle the audience.
The gory story follows the Roman general, Titus Andronicus, who has returned from ten years of war with some special prisoners; namely, Tamora, Queen of the Goths, and her three sons. In sacrificing Tamora’s eldest son, Titus earns the unending hatred of the Queen of the Goths, and her promise of revenge marks the beginning of the play’s carnage; herein follows framed murder plots, a series of dismembered bodies, feigned madness and a rather sickening pie eating scene.
Arrows & Traps Theatre Company obviously delight in the presentation of these gruesome moments, although the overall tone doesn’t sustain the horror of the piece. The confusion in tone arises from some of the modern elements included in the production’s style. Alongside the toga-like costume and traditional sword fights we have TV news transmissions, Facebook wars and military training done via computer gaming. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Shakespeare being modernised, but this clash of stylisation only serves to distract, or, at worst, push the horror into the realm of misguided humour.
Concept aside, there are some good performances from the large cast, with the Goth brothers (Alex Stevens and Will Mytum) asserting a sickening gleeful presence on stage. Titus’ characterisation wavers at times, but there is no doubting his affection for the much abused Lavinia. The stand out performance is from Cornelia Baumann as Marcia Andronicus who perfectly pitches her performance; showing tenderness to her niece as well as a steadfast resolve in the face of Titus’ teetering sanity.
All in all, this production seems a little lost; whilst there is good attention to the language of Shakespeare the odd stylisation mars the overall effect of the production.