‘Titus Andronicus’

‘Titus Andronicus’ was William Shakespeare’s first tragedy, written around 1594 in association with George Peele; although enormously popular in its day, it is now a rarely performed play. This was Will’s first attempt to keep up with the heavy dramas of his contemporaries, so this is his bloodiest – who will be alive at the end?

This 90-minute, linguistically complex play is being presented by the outstanding, Murdoch Postgraduate Performance Group and can be seen at 7.30 nightly in the comfortable Nexus Theatre, Murdoch University, for three nights only, until Saturday 27th February, for the giveaway ticket price of $10, available at the door.

Although Shakespeare’s play is set during the latter days of the Roman Empire, the director has placed it in around 1935. The costumes are similar to those of Russian soldiers (costumes Jenny de Reuck, Tiffany Banner).

Luke Gratton’s soundscape was excellent (operator Tay Broadley). Mainly cello and strings, the music was low-level, subtle and perfect for the action.

With very few major pieces of scenery, a great deal of the atmosphere was created by Tim Brain’s lighting. He used a follow spot (operated accurately by Jordan Baynes) and many intricate lighting changes (operator Shannen Precious). The whole show was smoothly managed by John King and SM Tiffany Banner, with Nick Morant on Flies.

       We are welcomed to ‘Rome’ by the obsequious Andrew Kocsis. Looking like a cross between Charlie Chaplin and the Master of Ceremonies in the 1972 film ‘Cabaret’ – Joel Grey.

      When the Queen of the Goths, Tamora (Sarah Courtis) arrives in Rome, one of her sons is taken and sacrificed by the notorious Roman general, Titus Andronicus (Joel Sammels). Titus has just finished a decade of fighting and crushing the Goths.

     Titus then drags his daughter, Lavinia (Ellin Sears) from her long time love, Bassianus (Stephen B. Platt) – the son of the late Emperor of Rome – and gives her to Saturninus (Jason Dohle), Bassianus’s brother, in recognition of his military service.

     Titus’s Aunt, Marcus Andronicus (Melissa Merchant), greatly respected by the people of Rome, tries to smooth out the family tiff, announcing that the popular vote goes to Titus.

      Tamora, who is a dark skinned Goth, decides to gain the support of a Moor leader, Aaron (Uzi Khan), with whom she is having a sexual relationship. A powerful couple then plot to destroy Titus and his family.

     Titus’s eldest son, Lucius (Dean Lovatt) tries to warn his relatives and pacify the situation, but Tamora’s two sons, Demetrius (Alex McVey) and Chiron (Philip Hutton) are cruel and feral – and so the inter-family battle begins.

This is renowned as a difficult play to follow and gory to the extreme; however, with a great deal of skill by the director, Jenny de Reuck, the production was amazingly lucid. Thankfully, the trauma of the multiple deaths was clearly demonstrated, without repulsing the audience.

Jenny employed the skills of Murdoch’s talented Postgrad students, giving us a first class, solid production.

The interracial / family struggles were very clearly demonstrated, with some very moving performances, especially that of Ellin Sears as the mutilated Lavinia.

An admirable production.