Globe to Globe blog: The silence of the limbs
Dan and Giles were at Shakespeare's Globe to see a Cantanese Titus Andronicus.
GILES: Before the sun and shadows have even had time to make a proper exit the rapes begin. Titus. Shakespeare’s most fucked up play. In Cantanese. Lopped off hands and heads. Cut out tongues. Flies stabbed with daggers. Interracial bastard babies with nooses round their necks. Pies made of head meat. Maternal cannibalism. Boy William decided that nothing less than a mardi gras of horror would do for his next play after the knotty monotony of Henry VI - Part 1 and he wastes no time in getting to the gore.
DAN: The old Roman war dog Titus comes back from the battles having served Rome well, bringing with him Gothic fundamentalist terror suspects Tamora and her boys. His daughter Lavinia refuses to marry the new emperor and that’s when the shit kicks off. The emperor marries Tamora instead and once she’s got her laurel wreath polished and her Gothic feet up in the palace she sets about getting revenge on Titus and his lot.
GILES: The play started with all the actors on chairs in a semicircle along the front of the apron. Talking out into the auditorium. Not looking at each other. After about ten minutes of this there was a sickening realization ran through the entire audience that this was how they were going to do the whole show! People started to shift and notice each other. THEN the chairs were removed and conventional story telling staging resumed. Shakespeare makes his plays so that you can be in the forest on one line and in the palace the next and no theatre serves this idea as well as the Globe.
DAN: Mark Rylance told us when we interviewed him for our film that the connection of the players to the audience is one of the most important things to him now. “Anything that happens in that performance is part of the play. Anything the audience say or do is part of it. We can see them, and we are all part of the performance.” Amen Brother Rylance. Amen. What we see here during this brilliant festival is that you ignore the audience at your peril.
GILES: “Sshhh!!!” The burgers are spot on at the Globe but the wrappers they come in compete with the jet liners coming in and going out overhead. This girl to our left Shhhed so loudly that everyone turned and looked right at her, and then SHE was Shhhed by someone for Shhhing. I think the play was encouraging confrontation.
DAN: It’s a young mans' play. It’s like that killer first album from Hendrix or Nirvana. It’s got balls. But like lots of Shakespeare’s plays it has as many ideas/things about it which are so alien to anything else that one could find in the other plays - which could be argument to say its not Shakespeare at all - as there are flourishes of his signature genius. For instance Aaron the Moor - Black and villainous carrying around this baby, his son by Tamora, defending it and destroying all those who mean it harm. I can’t think of anything else in Shakespeare quite like it and yet it’s exactly the kind of thing his genius would promote.
There’s something biblical about the story. It’s like something you’d hear out of the Old Testament. Some old duffer who's got to carve himself and his loved ones up for the satisfaction of the Lord, who in turn laughs and washes them all away into the sea, and the fact that we KNOW that what ever happens things can only get worse for our hero draws us in even more. But unlike the other great tragedies it’s hard in this play to see why our hero must suffer. And no one suffers like Titus.
GILES: In this production the actor starts low. Only in hindsight do we see he knew he had a lot of wow to go. As the story unfolds each scene brings on a fresh horror for Titus just as he’s had time to accept the last one heaped on him. The play contains one of my favourite lines in Shakespeare:-
“For now I stand as one upon a rock,
Environed with a wilderness of sea.”
They reckon he wrote Richard III after Titus, which kinda makes sense. Titus was Shakespeare’s first big hit. The Silence of the Lambs of its day. And Richard is all the juicy bits of Emperor Saturnine, Titus, Tamora and Aaron rolled into one crookbacked, devious, clawhanded pie.
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