Lincoln Drill Hall

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Titus Andronicus - an Elizabethan play

The RSC's production at the Barbican of Shakespeare's most bloody play is a triumph. It has only a short while still to run, so hurry.

I first encountered Titus on my Humanities Degree when we were looking at Classical influence and, of course, the story in Ovid's Metamophoses of Philomel. I saw and was stunned by the film Titus starring Anthony Hopkins.

It is a play about revenge, but also about what happens when we slavishly adhere to customs. It is set in a Rome that is crumbling, with leaders squabbling over primacy.

It was written in an England where there was worry of who might succeed Elizabeth. The memories of the bloody revenge between Catholics and Protestants were very fresh in the minds of all.

We watch it in an England where leadership is in doubt, where factions argue viciously about the rights of wrongs of being part of the EU - David Starkey famously described Henry VIII as the first Brexiteer. Perhaps we watch it when we are becoming anxious about who might succeed Elizabeth?

The production is very strong. With so much blood it is so easy to fall into farce. It didn't; there were much needed funny parts, but for the majority of the time we were left to struggle with the agony the characters were enduring. The personification of evil in Aaron is interesting. He is 'not one of us'.

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