Arts

Titus Andronicus @ The Nottingham New Theatre

Nottingham’s theatres are full of productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, but it’s not every day you get the chance to see Shakespeare’s first tragedy and arguably bloodiest play, Titus Andronicus. Rarely staged, it really was something special to see director James McAndrew and producer Nick Stevenson take on such a risk.

Shakespeare’s first tragedy and arguably bloodiest play

The play is set in the times of the Roman Empire, and tells the story of Roman General Titus Andronicus and the Queen of the Goths, Tamora. Exploring revenge and resentment, it is a must-see. From the beginning, the acting is absolutely first-class. Nick Barker as Titus Andronicus, Ginny Lee as Tamora and Ajay Stevenson as Aaron offer stunning performances, and Nick Gill as Saturnine provides some much-needed light relief, and his fantastic timing and gestures ensure that the comedy is gold.

Exploring revenge and resentment, it is a must-see

There really is no actor who should be left unmentioned, as everyone offered an unfaltering performance, but for me, the pinnacle of the play was the heart-breaking scene when Marcus (Ben Williamson) cradles Lavinia (Cressida McGill); a heart-wrenching scene that will stay with me forever.

From the beginning, the acting is absolutely first-class

The lighting is clever and playful throughout: monologues are thoughtfully lit; killers are drenched in light and outlined menacingly; atmosphere is created. The use of a veiled stage area at the back is also very successful, and is put to good use. However, though the set is minimalist, unfortunately the use of runes and imagery at the front of the stage looks rushed and jarring, and is something which the play could do without. If this was added for fear of the scene not being  ‘set’ properly, then the cast need not fret, because the solid acting alone transports the audience to Rome.

There is an uncomfortable humour that creeps into the more serious scenes. Who says vicious murders can’t be just a little bit funny?

It is always interesting to see how productions stage bloody and shocking scenes, and New Theatre’s effort certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front: a good balance between veiling the un-stageable and giving the audience something interesting to watch is achieved. Sometimes, there is an uncomfortable humour that creeps into the more serious scenes, but I think that is a strength rather than a weakness. There is an interesting dialogue between the offensive and the hilarious, and how often they can be the same thing. Who says vicious murders can’t be just a little bit funny?

It’s such a blessing that Nottingham New Theatre will always have something different to offer.

The fact that so many actors can learn such a demanding script whilst still getting a degree never ceases to amaze me, particularly in a piece from Shakespeare or his contemporaries.  It’s such a blessing that Nottingham New Theatre will always have something different to offer. Perhaps if more people got the chance to see a fast-paced, gory play like Titus Andronicus, they might be more inclined to persevere with The Bard a bit longer. If you like Shakespeare, go, if you don’t, go and see if you can’t have your mind changed.

Zoe Ashton

Star-Rating-41

 

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