Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s most notorious plays – a lot of companies just avoid it because of its extremely violent scenes. Luvas Theatre Company was however bold in choosing the specific play and in creating a highly physical version for the intimate Rose Playhouse for Shakespeare400 celebrations.
Director Jung Han Kim attempts to create a strong ensemble piece and an interesting take on Shakespeare’s classic, but fails to give prominence to the magic vibe that the Rose offers. The levels of tension and volume of the actors were constantly too high, in such a way that I failed to hear Shakespeare’s poetry and connect to the piece. There was a lot of screaming and howling for most of the 90 minutes, which was a shame as when there were a couple moments of silence – such as the one when Tamora was eating the pie (cooked with her own children’s flesh) – they were really beautiful.
Petr Vocka deserves a special mention for his lighting design and for creating a few striking images – particularly when the actors moved back and revealed the depth of the Rose that existed behind the platform/stage where the audience was sat. This vast performance area was such an interesting surprise when first revealed, that they could have made much more use of it.
The cast was of mixed quality. Laura Hopwood stood out as Tamora and had some interesting nuances in her performance. Unlike Hopwood, the rest of the cast tended to be too big and flat in their delivery.
This was an interesting take, and the director and company should be praised for the deftness of the physical sequences, the abstract and symbolic ways of representing the violence, rape and mutilations that Shakespeare’s play demands.