Review — Titus Andronicus at the Globe

I love theatre, and I love Shakespeare so I can’t really explain why last night was my first visit to the Globe, considering I’ve been living in London more than ten years,

Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays and until recently I didn’t even know much about it. It was only after I booked the tickets that I found out this particular production is so gory audience members have been fainting.

I am very squeamish. I like horror if it’s the tension-building kind, but I can’t watch splatterfests, and I was a little apprehensive about seeing it.

Titus Andronicus lived up to the hype. It was bloody. There was plenty of murder, a couple of rapes, people kept getting appendages chopped off, and let’s not leave out the cannibalism. Blood dripped onto the stage within the first five minutes, and it just kept coming.

Someone in the audience fainted.

But it wasn’t me. It was one of the groundlings, and considering the heat and how packed it was down there, it’s possible the fainting fit wasn’t down to the gore. But it probably was.

The production was very good. I can’t fault a single performance. The atmosphere, venue and set were brilliant, but ultimately I wasn’t crazy about it.

I usually love Shakespeare, but this just wasn’t one of his best. It was supposedly written to satisfy a vogue for bloodthirsty plays, and it shows.

There were a handful of lighter moments, most notably these famous lines (which brilliantly combine Shakespeare’s talent for insults with his skill for smutty innuendo):

Demetrius: Villain, what hast thou done?

Aaron: That which thou canst not undo.

Chiron: Thou hast undone our mother.

Aaron: Villain, I have done thy mother.

I’ve been lucky enough to have seen some extraordinary Shakespearian productions on stage (Ian McKellan as King Lear, and then Patrick Stewart as Macbeth immediately spring to mind), but unfortunately there is a reason Titus Andronicus is one of the lesser known plays. I’m glad I’ve seen it, but unlike King Lear, Macbeth or many of his others, I wouldn’t be interested in seeing it again. Very much a been there, done that kind of thing.

Final verdict: See it if you like gore, are a serious Shakespeare fan, and/or want to see Shakespeare at the Globe in London. Give it a miss if you are squeamish, or are able to wait until next year’s season to see something at the Globe.

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