Last weekend I saw an adaptation of Titus Andronicus (muh favvee Shakespeare play) by a company called Factious Tash at Q Theatre in Auckland. Even thought this is my first for this play, I’m not sure I’ll ever see a good production of Titus Andronicus. It’s almost TOO much for the stage. Especially the quadruple murder series at the dinner scene – it just becomes humorous when you see it happen. Credibility to Factious Tash, though – the energy and spirit they kept up during this exhaustingly physical piece was admirable. All the way til the end, they were intense, lively, and interesting to watch. I’ve also decided that Shakespearean language sounds better coming from a Kiwi or English person than it does from almost any American. Not sure why that is… maybe this group was particularly clear with the text. Though, again, even the text is larger than any human can fully embody. How does one pay full homage to Titus’ words after he sees his daughter raped and mutilated, with her hands and tongue severed?
TITUS: Thou hast no hands, to wipe away thy tears:
Nor tongue, to tell me who hath martyr’d thee:
Thy husband he is dead: and for his death
Thy brothers are condemn’d, and dead by this.
Like…. how do you deal with that? Or Aaron’s words:
Oft have I digg’d up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends’ door
Even when their sorrows almost was forgot,
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters
‘Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.’
Either way – These guys sure did give it a great shot. The set and themes of the play had an urban trash twist, with all the actors in black, a shopping cart for a burial cart, a jack in the box, and blood replaced with black liquid. What was probably the coolest element of the show was the use of Nicki Manaj’s music for transitions. Turns out she is oddly appropriate for the horrible insanity of the events that took place onstage. The relentless bass and alien sounds she uses in her music complimented the black, charred actors and bright strobe lights nicely. After seeing the bloody bodies of war and the slaughter of Tamora’s oldest son in the first scene of the play, the intro to Nicki’s “Beez In The Trap” blared from the speakers – the individual droplet sounds in the beginning of the track jolting the still actors into movement as they fired.
As Tamora being one of my favorite Shakespeare characters, I was really disappointed when I found out that the cast was all men. A small young man played Tamora and though he was FIERCE and the sexual tension between him and Aaron was incredible- I thought there was a Queenliness missing from his/her swagger. Not to mention how much older Tamora is than this actor. This young man was also very small in comparison to the other men of the cast. Though he held his own, I would have loved to see a mature woman playing that role.
Overall it was a fun evening. I can’t say it was an exceptional performance, but I really enjoyed the commitment from the cast and the use of a horrifying piece of pop culture as a support for this insane play.