Monthly Archives: May 2013

Titus Andronicus – breathtaking stage horror

“Titus Andronicus“ RSC production at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Stephen Boxer (Titus Andronicus) and Rose Reynolds (Lavinia)

Stephen Boxer (Titus Andronicus) and Rose Reynolds (Lavinia)

War, revenge, bloody hatred, mutilations, rape, murder – Shakespeare dug deep into the trickbox of human chasms. General Titus Andronicus returns home to Rome from his war against the Goths, bringing with him, as prisoners: Tamora, Queen of the Goths, her black lover Aaron and her three sons. According to tradition, Tamora‘s eldest son is sacrificed to the Gods, despite her pleas. She vows to take revenge…

Katy Stephens (Tamora)

Katy Stephens (Tamora)

Titus Andronicus, played by Stephen Boxer in the full depth of male disorientation between rigour and doubt, supports Saturninus (droll, John Hopkins) in his candidacy to be the next Emperor, also promising him his daughter Lavinia for wife. Lavinia (Rose Reynolds), however, is already secretly engaged to Bassianus (Richard Goulding), the new Emperor’s brother, whom she runs off with. Saturninus now makes Tamora his Empress. Katy Stephens, as Tamora, plays with the audience’s perception as seductively as with the Emperor’s. She instigates her two sons Chiron and Demetrius (Jonny Weldon and Perry Millward as nasty Beavis and Butt-Head characters) to murder Bassianus and to rape and mutilate Lavinia. All of that happens off-stage, but it leads to the scene that is the most difficult to bear, when Lavinia reappears, abused, without hands, without tongue. Rose Reynolds turns her body into a documentation that perhaps hits even deeper than images on the news, those from real-life atrocities.

Rose Reynolds (Lavinia)

Rose Reynolds (Lavinia)

Aaron (very subtle, Kevin Harvey, seen all the verbal abuse he is constantly subjected to, you nearly want to forgive his evil-mindedness) accuses two of Titus Andronicus’s sons of having murdered Bassianus, and he offers Titus the Emperor’s lenience in return for him hacking off his arm. From here onwards, the atmosphere turns from startled horror to expeditions into the world of splatter movies, accompanied by fits of nervous laughter from the audience. The hacked-off arm doesn’t help; Titus has a delivery of his son’s heads. There is one son remaining, he sends him to the Goths, to raise an army against Rome. The circle of revenge finds its last climax at a banquet, when Titus Andronicus serves Tamora her killed and minced sons in a pasty. A cartoon-like bloodlust finale only leaves Titus‘s son Lucius and grandson Lucius junior alive. As one member of the audience said after the show: “If it teaches you nothing else, revenge is probably not such a good idea.” Clip

Matthew Needham (Lucius),Kevin Harvey (Aaron)

Matthew Needham (Lucius),Kevin Harvey (Aaron)

It is one of Shakespeare’s very early plays, and it is not put on stage very often. For our modern minds, all that bloodshed is more difficult to bear than for audiences in the 16th century. Very nasty indeed, it would be, if the elements of comedy were overlooked in all that horror. Director Michael Fentiman, in his RSC debut, created a clever and breathtaking arc between things that we should take in and those that we can take in. Together with his fantastic cast, he puts the audience in a roller coaster atmosphere in which, admittedly, it can happen that someone gets rather pale.

Titus Andronicus will be on stage in Stratford up to 26th October, 2013

Photos by Simon Annand

also published in German on http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/titus-andronicus-atemberaubender-buhnenhorror/

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Shakespearean Folk in the Forest of Arden

As You Like It production
of the Royal Shakespeare TheatreAYLI-6382, at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle

Wanderer between worlds, fugitives as beacons of hope, metamorphosis to a more heartfelt existence under the influence of nature… Country lad William Shakespeare, living in London’s big city hustle and bustle, certainly knew the longing he was writing about.

This production by Swedish director Maria Aberg bathes the affectionate Shakespeare comedy in an ambiance of festival, midsummer and heavenly lightness. Its atmosphere floats on dreamlike music written by composer and folk-pop singer Laura Marling.

Rosalind, the surpassing Pippa Nixon, flees, together with her cousin (Joanna Horton), from her reckless uncle’s court, shortly before also her heartthrob Orlando (Alex Waldmann) seeks refuge in the Forest of Arden, due to his brother’s murderous plans.
This is where already Rosalind’s banished father is hiding with his entourage. Rosalind, disguised as a man, comes across Orlando, who doesn’t recognize her, and teaches him the art of charming a woman.

Pippa Nixon does not only conquer Orlando – with her incredible diversity of expression, she juggles with the audience’s emotions and expectations, flying them high, letting them drop, catching them in such swing and momentum and spinning them up again, that just watching the play feels like dancing.
Alex Waldmann is a current day Orlando, hoodie wearer, misunderstood, exuberantly young and intoxicatingly physical. He displays his emotional worlds, their development and their variety in ways so touching that you’d wish you had individual scene photos for each single one of them.
Celia, Rosalind’s cousin and soulmate, is played by a fabulous Joanna Horton who credits this often neglected part with the fascination and warmth of a funny very best friend.
Touchstone the jester ensures, portrayed by Nicholas Tennant, continuous tears of laughter, and Jaques, his alter ego, in Oliver Ryan’s interpretation, comes over as a lovable drop-out comedian.

Alex Waldman (Orlando) and Pippa Nixon (Rosalind) In background David Fielder (Adam)

Alex Waldman (Orlando) and Pippa Nixon (Rosalind)
In background David Fielder (Adam)

As You Like It is going to be on stage in the Theatre Royal in Newcastle from Tue 29 October – Sat 2 November 2013.
A treat not to be missed.
(First published in German on 26/04/2013 under http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/shakespeare-woodstock-im-wald-von-arden/)

Alex Waldman (Orlando)

Alex Waldman (Orlando)

Pippa Nixon (Rosalind)

Pippa Nixon (Rosalind)

Nicholas Tennant (Touchstone)

Nicholas Tennant (Touchstone)

Oliver Ryan (Jaques)

Oliver Ryan (Jaques)

 

 

Photographer:  Keith Pattison

 

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