Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bloody Titus

For I must talk of murders, rapes and massacres, Acts of black night, abominable deeds,Complots of mischief, treason, villanies Ruthful to hear, yet piteously perform' ActV:Sc1

Books, blood and a bucket; apart from the nine male cast members they are the main components of the Bell Shakespeare’s production of Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome, a Shakespeare Commentary.

Adapted by Heiner Muller, translated by Julian Hammond, directed by Michael Gow and dramatically lit by Matt Scott, it is a fascinating modern/period/Australian hybrid production. The play's misogyny, cannibilism, racism, and implicit violence are gruesome and extremely confronting, even with Mullers modern commentary and its context of it being a typical 'revenge tragedy' of its time .

This 2 hour long performance has a mixture of period language and contemporary references that deviate between absurd blood letting, a la the Braindead, schlock-horror of Peter Jackson, to acts of violence and rape that recall Abu Grave and Janine Balding.

The whole performance is an antidote to the steretypical "men in tights" perception of Shakespeare and graphically prove that Quentin Tarintino and The Texas Chaisaw Massacre brought nothing new to the stage.
Despite this there is humour and meaning to what could be perceived as an indulgence in graphic violence and bloodletting. Most of the reviews have been positive although the audiences have not been huge. I've watched several people leave in the first hour because it is so disquieting but this is no reflection of the quality of the performance. As Rosemary Sorensen aptly states

"Concentrate on the words, director Michael Gow is telling us. Listen to how eloquently Shakespeare writes these speeches, allowing us to enjoy the elegance of the argumentation and the clever imagery right in the teeth of the monstrous situation we are witnessing."

The play ends with most of the protagonists being dispatched in a bloody game of ‘tag’ while the curtain call looks like the line-up from “Day of the Living Dead”.

This is a powerful play, skillfully directed and performed and, in spite of the big clean-up job for the Stage hands and the ASM, a pleasure to work.

1 comment:

LynS said...

What an engaging review, Kate. I will try to find time and money to see it.