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Well, as all the reviews said, this was a bloody mess. Literally (gobs of stage blood). And also very well acted, and affecting. But you can tell this is early drama, and early Shakespeare - the villain is bad because .... he's bad. That's it. End of explanation. And he's the only non-white person there, which made it very, very uncomfortable ... .

Titus Andronicus (review of performance)

This thing had one of the most convoluted plots - I read the synopsis and said "I'm going to be lost." But the acting, and the actors' excellent diction, ensured that actually, I followed it quite well. Bascically, Titus Andronicus, general, returns in triumph to Rome after fighting the Goths. He's lost 21 of his 25 (!!!) sons in the war, and among the prisoners are Tamora, Queen of the Goths, her 3 sons, and her advisor, a Moor named Aaron. Titus lets his remaining sons sacrifice Tamora's oldest as payment for their brothers' deaths. Tamora begs for her son's life but is spurned. The rest of the play is how she gains her revenge - and then how Titus in turn gains his revenge. The play includes multiple murders, several maimings, and a rape. (Well, maybe two rapes, if you count how Tamora's remaining sons are disporting themselves at one point ... but that isn't actually part of the plot.)

There are a number of horrifying things in the play, obviously. However, Aaron's characterization is about as bad as any of the violent mayhem. And Shakespeare wrote it that way, so I'm not sure what could be done, exccept not perform the play: there are numerous references to the character's skin color, and so on. The actor, of African descent, did an excellent job - he had amazing force of personality and physical presence, and the part where he rescues his bastard son by Tamora was a marvel - but the character is so appallingly one dimensional in every other respect, it's unbelieveable, even given the era in which the play was written. As he's dragged offstage at the end, he is ranting that if he's ever done a single good thing in his life, he regrets it. > sigh <

The other really appalling thing is the fate of Titus' daughter Lavinia. Fairly early on, after her marriage (desired by both parties) to the Emperor's brother, Tamora's sons rape her, cut out her tongue, and cut off her hands, so that she won't be able to identify them. Thank God, this all takes place offstage, but she comes on afterward ... . She is taken back in by her father and uncle, and eventually she and the uncle figure out a way for her to communicate what happened and who did it. But in one of the final scenes, as Titus is revealing Tamora and Aaron's crimes - Titus kills her. OK, this is an honor thing, and the sort of event that actually happened (and sadly, still happens) to women who have been raped. But it's so coldly done, and so long after the fact - and it's done as part of Titus' process of revealing the crimes, so it's very calculated - so that it's really awful, even in the historical context.

Technically, the play was excellent. The design was really stylish. The set was for the most part, pretty minimal. The black coffins of Titus' 21 slain sons get a lot of use in the first scenes: they are stacked and re-stacked to form walkways, speakers' platforms, and so on, with excellent symbolic weight. The forest, for the scenes where Lavinia is attacked and her husband and two of her remaining brothers killed, was represented by a projected backdrop of tree trunks and some stylized trees on platforms that glided in soundlessly from the wings, and were rearranged several times to indicate changes in location. The costumes were almost all black, white, and red - to grisly effect with Lavinia, who goes from a very elegant black hunting dress to a white shift to bloodstained white rags. This made the grimly fanciful, garishly full-color costumes of Tamora and her sons - when they are disguised as the goddess Revenge and her lieutenants Murder and Rape, to try to take advantage of Titus' supposed madness - all the more striking. And Titus' sparkling white chef's outfit - complete with a toque - made the horrifying humor of the last scene - where he has served Tamora her sons' flesh baked into a pie - all the more effective.

All in all, it made for a disturbing afternoon, but it a very well-done show.

We've seen a fair amount of really good theater this year, because the Young Lady's school program requred that she see a play every quarter (they didn't have to be professional productions, though). But I think maybe now we're in the habit for its own sake ... .

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
woodburner
May. 21st, 2007 07:58 pm (UTC)
Heya! I'm doing your reading right now (sorry it's late x_x) and I realized I didn't know where you wanted me to send it - you want it sent to the same address as your payment came from?
chomiji
May. 21st, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)

And here I thought someone had a comment about the gory Shakespeare ... !

You know, I thought of that ... and then I thought, well, maybe she got it from Sanada.

If it's the ruth ess ess pea one from Earthlink (at the net not the com), then yes, that's the one. (Please forgive the obfuscation ... I loathe spam ... .)

Thanks!

woodburner
May. 21st, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)
Ahaha, sorry! XD I just sent the reading (and no prob, I always do the same thing, though I'm already inundated by floods of spam on a daily basis so I don't know how much good it does...)

I haven't read Titus Andronicus, but judging from your comments on the plot it sounds like I might as well go watch the latest action blockbuster out and I could get the same thing, lol. Though I guess elegant poetic language counts for something, at least...
fmanalyst
May. 22nd, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)
I read a theory once that Shakespeare had been a script doctor on Titus Andronicus, collaborating with someone else. Of course, I can't remember where I read that.
chomiji
May. 22nd, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)

Huh, very interesting! It certainly doesn't read like the later plays. And all these plays were taken from histories, stories, other plays, etc. It was an interesting time - I'm a slacker about reading straight history, but I've read some very good, well-researched historical fiction about London during this period.

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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