Monday, August 5, 2013

Titus Andronicus

Well, you really have to hand it to — no wait, let me rephrase that — you really have to credit Jane Howell for an excellent production of Titus Andronicus. This was the final play produced in the BBC Shakespeare series, and the whole thing certainly ended with a bang.

If you read a plot synopsis of the play, you can scarcely believe what you're reading. Such a brutal, bloody, sadistic, cannibalistic story is completely different from anything else Shakespeare ever wrote. But Howell's cast certainly pulled it off.

The foremost credit must go to Trevor Peacock in the title role. His commitment to the audacious happenings in the play was complete and unshakeable. It was his fifth and his finest appearance in the series. (Apropos of nothing, I was astonished to read that he is also the composer/lyricist of "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter".) Hugh Quarshie was also fantastic as Aaron the Moor. I felt that only Edward Hardwicke as Marcus Andronicus lacked the intensity demanded by the play.

Harold Bloom believes Shakespeare wrote this play with his tongue in cheek — no wait, let me rephrase that — Bloom believes Shakespeare wrote the play a bit facetiously. He feels the play is a parody of Marlowe. Indeed, portions of the play are rather difficult to take seriously. But Howell's approach definitely took the play at face value, and approached it with utter sincerity.

I especially liked her use of Young Lucius. His Harry Potter-like face was the first and last thing we saw in this adaptation, his eyes staring widely through his spectacles at the horrors happening all around him. Seemingly destined to be emperor himself one day, perhaps he will be the one to learn from the insane, depraved circle of revenge that swirls all about him.

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