Preview: Titus Andronicus

Shakespeare’s gruesome tragedy to be performed by the increasingly ambitious UCLU Drama Society

Shakespeare’s gruesome and tensely realised Titus Andronicus is a tragedy of
revenge and power, and will present a challenge for the UCL Drama Society
due to its elevated language and complex, twisting plot. Telling of Titus, a
general in the Roman army in the latter days of the Empire, and his struggles
against the scheming Tamora, Shakespeare’s interpretation of the revenge
tragedy genre is his bloodiest work. Judging by the rehearsal attended by The
Tab, this production should be a resounding success.

When we spoke to the director, Dan Garber, and producers Lily Fisher and
Scarlett Young about the process of bringing Titus to the stage, this is what they
had to say:

What made you choose Titus Andronicus?

DAN: I was looking for a play to do, because I originally wanted to do The
Shining – we were going to have the whole theatre bleeding – but I couldn’t
get the rights, so I just typed into Google ‘Most Violent Plays’ and this
came up as number one! But I also really wanted to put my own spin on
Shakespeare… I wanted to try and do it in a new way.

So, how have you handled the violence in the play?

SCARLETT: How did we reign it in to creepy-level four?

DAN: I think we’ve gone so far over the line, that it stops being real and
starts being more of a statement. Its what Tarantino does in a lot of his

SCARLETT: It’s also making a point about how far is too far, because
everything is so violent; you switch the TV on and that’s all you can see. At
what point do people think ‘no, that’s too much, we’ve got to reign it in’?
It’s set in Russia in the Nineties and it was this violent – it still is – and so
the violence is appropriate.

Have you got any particular art direction?

DAN: The whole idea of the play is that its going to be in the style of a
graphic novel, so the backdrops are going to be projected and sort of
animated. Each scene is like a frame, and each change of scene is like a
page turn. We went with Russia as we thought the characters and the themes translated really well, and they’re all dressed in suits and the KGB

Who was the hardest character to cast?

LILY: They all came along and slotted nicely into particular roles. The
sicko brothers, that’s a great part, and they just came along and we put
them together in the callbacks as power crazed individuals!

DAN: I just thought, ‘who do I not want to bump into on the street? Cast

This team seem wholly dedicated to their roles and bring an infectious
enthusiasm and energy to the production. They are innovative and seem to be
striving to get the very best from their acting team: in the rehearsal, one scene
was repeated three or four times to make it as sharp and effective as possible.
The actors themselves also seem incredibly talented and fully committed to
bringing the best realisation of Titus to the stage as possible. Judging from
initial impressions, Rach Jones brings a cold sensuality to her role as the
manipulative Tamora and should be a delight to watch. Similarly, the horror and
raw emotion of the scene between Lavinia and Marcus is expertly captured by
Avy Tennison and Karan Gill.

This is not always the easiest play to watch, due to its intense and sustained
cruelty, and the Shakespearean language may put off some theatre-goers who
may feel alienated by the elegant Elizabethan poetic style. Do not let this be
the case! This promises to be an enthralling and thought-provoking production
which challenges conventional notions of loyalty and duty, set against a solid
foundation of excellent acting and ingenious special effects. Titus Andronicus
remains an enduring portrait of a society built upon brutality and the notion of
retribution, and this production will hopefully bring an exciting interpretation of
this to life in all its blood-soaked grandeur.

Titus Andronicus will run from the 27th-29th March, and will be performed at the
Rag Factory, Shoreditch.
Contact the Rag Factory on 020 7183 3048 for more information.