If we're to make a list of theatre directors whose work always shocks, astonishes and surprises us, Adena Jacobs would be at the absolute top. From her legitimately terrifying production of The Howling Girls, which plunged its audience into total darkness before temporarily blinding us with bright lights, to her decidedly adult, queer take on The Wizard of Oz, her shows are always an experience.
She's fascinated with taking the great myths and stories of western culture and refocusing them through a queer, feminist lens, and now she's tackling Shakespeare's earliest tragedy, the blood-thirsty and darkly violent Titus Andronicus. Given that Jacobs doesn't shy away from confronting her audience, you should probably brace yourself – and maybe have a stiff drink beforehand.
This will be not only Jacobs first time directing a production for Bell Shakespeare, but it's the first time the company – which performs Shakespeare's plays almost exclusively – has ever taken on Titus.
Bell Shakespeare has recently come under intense criticism following a slew of underwhelming productions, which have attracted largely negative reviews. But Jacobs, who just directed a production of Salome for the English National Opera, always pushes the envelope in some way, and tends to be the kind of director who you either love or hate. In a way, this is the perfect play to introduce her to Bell Shakespeare's audience.
It's set in the Roman Empire and follows Titus, a general of the Roman empire who is determined to exact revenge upon Tamora, Queen of the Goths. There's cannibalism, a hell of a lot of bloodshed, rape and mutilation in this famously cruel tale. At the conclusion of the play, one character is sentenced to be buried chest deep and to die from starvation and thirst.
Jane Montgomery Griffiths, who's worked with Jacobs previously in Antigone at Malthouse and The Wizard of Oz at Belvoir, will star as Titus in this production, which will play at Sydney Opera House from August 27, 2019.