Decapitated heads are carried on stage in Morrisons bags, and Lavinia is raped in the back of a white van in this modern, urban staging of Shakespeare’s goriest tragedy. As for the pie via which Titus tricks Tamora into yomming up her sons – it looks horribly like a meat feast pizza.
The first piece of theatre to be produced in Peckham’s multi-storey car park, this ‘Titus Andronicus’ captures some of the play’s hysterically grotesque humour. But with a mixed-skill cast, a community choir, parkour and beatboxing elements, and all the challenges of site-specific performance, new London company The Theory of Everything bites off more than it can chew.
Director Pia Furtado’s concept makes poetic sense, initially. What better contemporary substitute for Shakespeare’s ‘ruthless, vast and gloomy woods’ than a disused car park after dusk? And who better to soundtrack the tragedy of Lavinia, mutilated into silence by her rapists, than beatboxer Bellatrix, who wins world championship titles with her tongue?
Returning from Rome’s wars, Titus (RSC alumnus Adam Burton) screeches up in a battered car with plastic-bound bodies in the boot, while heirs to the imperial throne Saturninus and Bassianus bounce in trainers around trailing mic cables as they battle for the title of Emperor. The London skyline is a stunning territorial backdrop.
But the setting causes problems for an already imperfect play. Trains thunder like giant erasers through chunks of script, and tension dissipates across the huge space. At one point we’re distracted from a murder when Saturninus negotiates a tricky five-point turn.
While you expect raw, urban menace you get something cheesier and strangely reminiscent of Nineties dystopian movies, with safe snatches of parkour and a soundtrack that quickly resorts to pre-record. Despite an exhilarating opening sequence, the star of the show is, sadly, the view.
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Yes, I do agree with the comments below! I also saw this last Wednesday and thought it was incredible, only picking up pace as it went along. My only gripe was that the first half was too long or could have been broken up by moving the audience around, at least once. Other than this I thought it was mesmerizing and intense. I've been to various submersive theatrical shows over recent years and Titus certainly stood it's ground umongst other more traditional spaces.
I also really disagree with this review. I thought the production was raw, powerful and relavent and has stayed with me for days. The London skyline mearly a bonus to this gripping piece of theatre.
Also couldn't disagree more with this review. How I wish productions like this had been around when I was a kid - it was so accessible and easy to follow. The re-casting of Lucius as Lucia brought a freshness to it, and this is exactly the sort of innovative, exciting production that is going to inspire a new generation of theatre goers, producers and performers to stray from the boundaries of conventional theatre. I loved it.
I couldn't disagree more! I saw Titus on Wednesday and yes, the view and sunset were beautiful and Franks Cafe and bar a well kept secret but Titus was raw, gritty, within my small budget and good! I have never seen a play in car park before and I thought it was so clever to do Shakespeare's goriest one there. The trains a bit off putting but after the first few I didn't notice them at all. Titus was brilliant and all the women in the play were fantastic. I have told all my friends to go. It is something different and I really liked it.