Our first day in London was spent wandering the city, doing a lot, and I mean a lot of walking so as we filed into the Globe Theatre for Titus Andronicus my feet had already started to ache. Now in true Groundling style we would be standing throughout the performance…. the entire three hour performance.
And I loved every second of it.
Being on the floor level meant total immersion in the show. Actors would carry the Roman leaders and lead characters throughout the floor area on metal platforms, herding, and at times shoving audience members aside in order to clear a path. To me it was like I was a Roman peasant watching as the nobility struggled for power and revenge, and I was totally enthralled by it. During the show we were showered in confetti, had fake wine poured over our heads, and a few unlucky classmates were standing in the blood splash zone.
Titus is known for being Shakespeare’s goriest show by far, and the Globe production stayed true to this. Each death (and if you haven’t read or seen it, there are a lot of deaths) got bloodier and more disturbing as Titus’ madness and need for revenge grew. However in our class discussions we talked about the extreme nature of this show, and how it can often be viewed at as a parody of the tragic genre as a whole. The Globe really honed in on this and it was my favorite part of the production. The pairing of comedic acting and violent and disturbing murders created an interesting commentary on mankind’s enjoyment in violence. In the days of Rome, gladiators fought to the death in the Colosseum. In Elizabethan England, people could view public executions. Today we have violent video games, TV shows, and books toping best seller lists across the globe. Shakespeare may have written Titus as a way to force audiences to think about their obsession with violence, and it has stayed relevant even to today.
In all, Titus was the most immersive, most disturbing, and yet strongly enlightening and thought provoking pieces of theatre I have seen thus far. I can’t help but agree with reviewers, five stars.