Review | TITUS ANDRONICUS (Bell Shakespeare)

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

Taking a brave and ambitious new angle on what is considered to be Shakespeare’s most gory and horrific play, this confronting production by Bell Shakespeare will push the sensory limits of even the most seasoned theatre-goer.

Staged in the Playhouse Theatre at the Sydney Opera House, Adena Jacobs’ grotesquely provocative version of Titus Andronicus is a bold take on the notorious story. In what could possibly be a response to a lack of daring, different and experimental direction in modern theatre, Adena Jacobs has surpassed the mundane, safe choices and instead brought us something that is worth talking about.

In collaboration with dramaturg Aaron Orzech, the original text is reconstructed into eight chapters that allow for new voices to communicate the narrative. Character perspectives and the visceral effects of violence on the body are the centralized parts of the exploration. The director makes effective use of imagery and symbolism (particularly in tandem with rich audio visual effects) to communicate the most horrifying of concepts. A particularly poignant theme was during the mutilation and rape of Lavinia where we are visually juxtaposed with the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood – are these tales meant to be a warning to us that we will end up like Lavinia if we stray from our pre-ordained path?

In the midst of the terrifying world of vengeance presented to us, Jane Montgomery Griffiths steals the show as the titular character. A fearless performer, we are drawn into the perilous psyche of Titus as the bloody battle for revenge destroys all the innocents within the fallout zone. The young Grace Truman turned quite a few heads particularly when opposite Griffiths, definitely one to watch.

The set and costume design aligned with the sombre themes of the production apart from the bright purple hair and tights worn by Tariro Mavondo as Aaron the Moor, which seemed distracting and out of place, as did their performance. A stronger engagement both with the story and with the other actors would have resulted in a more evident connection.

Significant use of AV was made throughout the show that served to not only support the terrifying and slaughterous cycles of violence, but also to give you something to cut back to when the heightened language became a bit overwhelming to fully comprehend.

My Reaction

There were moments throughout the play that the depictions of mutilation, violence and rape were able to penetrate even my own impervious exterior and prompt me to look away. However, I could not look away for longer than a second as the powerful performances (particularly by the female leads) forced me to pay attention. I left the theatre feeling exhilarated and provoked by this queer, bold production that did a stellar job of presenting Shakespeare to a 21st century audience.

Venue Playhouse Theatre, Sydney Opera House, 27 August – 22 September 2019

Director Adena Jacobs

Playwright William Shakespeare Cover Image by Zan Wimberley

DISCLAIMER: This and all other reviews posted by A Millennial with an Opinion/JTA Official/Jessie Trompp are the honest personal opinions of a theatre-goer and are not reflective in any way of the opinions of others who have seen the production.

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