A midnight slaughter, Titus Andronicus after dark

“In peace and honour rest you here, my sons;
Rome’s readiest champions, repose you here in rest,
Secure from worldly chances and mishaps!
Here lurks no treason, here no envy swells,
Here grow no damned grudges; here are no storms,
No noise, but silence and eternal sleep:
In peace and honour rest you here, my sons!
― William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

It is a truth universally-enough acknowledged (ie, by Katarina) that the very best poetry I ever wrote happened in 8th grade and involved a tongue-in-cheek examination of all the misery and slaughter in Shakespeare’s plays. As I was of tender years at the time, my poem did not contain anything of Titus Andronicus since I’d yet to encounter it. In fact I’d never seen a production of it until a couple weekends ago when Jeff and I trotted off to The Globe, about half an hour’s walk from where we live (I know, my life is such a trial…) for this season’s midnight matinee.
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I’m pretty sure I first heard about the midnight production from the indomitable Kerry over at Planes, Trains, and Plantagenets, though I don’t remember precisely in what context, but I leapt at the chance for tickets this year. ‘Round midnight we convened and flooded into the theatre, feeling very Tudor-ish.
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The production itself was very well done. It was incredibly well acted, especially the disturbed and disturbing role of Lavinia who is traumatized (understandably) nearly out of her humanity. Titus is a hard play for me because while I can handle sex and violence in my entertainment, I don’t do well with sexual violence. Of all Shakespeare’s various victims, to me Lavinia is without question the most victimized and her whole narrative, though important, is incredibly difficult to watch. The direction gave her some wonderful moments of self-realization and justice…though of course her end is pretty terrible. Hats off to Flora Spencer-Longhurst for a powerful performance. Tamora was played by Indira Varma, of Game of Thrones fame (seriously, GoT actors are all over the London Shakespeare game), and William Houston absolutely nailed the role of Titus.
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The director made excellent use of the audience and groundlings, bringing much of the action out into the pit itself to use the audience to portray the Roman mob or Gothic hordes as needed. Titus’ entrance involved being carried through the audience in triumph while the crowds cheered his victory.

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Minions, it was fantastically gory! By my count, at least four people fainted and had to be carried from the theatre.

Perhaps that’s too enthusiastic a review? I can’t help it. The staff had an amazingly effective system in place. Something horrible would happen on stage, one of the groundlings would wobble for a second before going over, a staff member would make their way into the pit and stand guard while signalling the medic team, who would assemble and quickly cart the senseless, hapless individual away. Like unto the violence itself, there was a sort of method that was admirable and cynical at the same time – how meta!

The Globe, true to its roots, tends to do highly stripped down productions set-wise. It gives things an authentic Tudor feel on the one hand, but also makes their use of 21st century special effects downright eerie. When there is no complex set or costumes to distract you with their modernness , the scene where Titus lays his hand down to be hacked off in order to save his sons’ lives is horribly realistic. Let’s just say that intermission heavily involved mopping up the stage blood and gore from the first half of the performance. It was terrific fun!
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Our view, which admittedly did not suck in the slightest, offered a great sense of the stark design of the stage.

We didn’t get home until nearly 4 a.m., and it being summer in London which is a lot further north than a lot of people realize, the sky was already starting to get light as dawn approached. That Sunday was a bit long, but completely worth it, and I absolutely plan on repeating the occasion next year. Alas, it probably will not be nearly as bloody.

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