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To look at the performance history of Titus Andronicus is to confront some provocative questions such as why has this play posed severe problems for generations of readers, critics, editors, actors, directors, and playgoers. The book examines twelve major theatrical productions and one film, on the play, that appeared in the years 1989-2009. It begins with Edward Ravenscroft's version that superseded Shakespeare's script. Peter Brook chose to stylise or formalise many moments, and Deborah Warner's production worked with no cutting of the script. Every staging of Titus elicits comments about the daunting nature of the script. The book presents Irving Wardle's reactions on Trevor Nunn's 1972 rendition, and Stanley Wells's review of the Swan production. The densest concentration of such problems and anomalies, as perceived by today's directors, critics, and editors, comes in the final scene. The productions that opened in 1989, directed by Jeannette Lambermont, Daniel Mesguich, and Michael Maggio, cut and rearranged the text liberally, often in an attempt to avoid the laughter. During the period 1989-99, three major European directors, Peter Stein, Silviu Purcarete, and Gregory Doran, focused their attention on the ways in which the play can be made to comment on specific contemporary affairs. Julie Taymor's venture in 1994 combined stylization with the 'visceral reality' as a means to keep spectators off balance and continuously sensitive to the shocking brutality of the play's events. The book ends by discussing the efforts of Yukio Ninagaw, Bill Alexander, Gale Edwards, Richard Rose, and Lucy Bailey.

Michael D. Friedman
and
Alan Dessen

Yukio Ninagawa's Japanese production exhibited the influence of Peter Brook's stylised technique, while both Bill Alexander, for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and Gale Edwards, for the Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, DC, followed the realistic example set by Jane Howell. One of Yukio Ninagawa's formative theatrical experiences was attending 'Peter Brook's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which he saw performed in Tokyo in 1973, a year before he began to direct Shakespeare'. Richard Rose's Stratford, Ontario production, set in Fascist Italy, emulated the political approach established by Douglas Seale, and Lucy Bailey's production at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre resembled the darkly comic vision of Deborah Warner. Warner's 1987 version of Titus Andronicus for the RSC was so successful that it took sixteen years for the company to work up the courage to mount another production of the play.

in Titus Andronicus
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1994 and 1999
Michael D. Friedman
and
Alan Dessen

Julie Taymor first directed Titus Andronicus with Theatre for a New Audience at St Clement's Church in New York City, a staging that cemented her reputation as a leading Shakespearean director. For Taymor, William Shakespeare's play on stage became a vehicle for commenting on the exploitation of violence as a form of entertainment in the contemporary world. Moving from a theatrical staging to film, Taymor relied more heavily on visual landscapes than on dialogue to convey the psychological torment of Titus and his progeny. As Taymor moved from stage to screen, she also modified many of the elements she borrowed from Jane Howell's realistic BBC-TV rendition. Like Peter Stein, Taymor mixed the ancient and the modern, with several aspects of set design, costumes, and music that evoked specific recent eras. Elliot Goldenthal's soundtrack for both the staging and the film also reflected Taymor's 'esthetic of temporal melange'.

in Titus Andronicus
Michael D. Friedman
and
Alan Dessen

Peter Stein's Titus Andronicus production grew out of the 'Shakespeare Project', a series of seminars with students at the University of Rome's Teatro Ateneo, which featured exercises using the original text of the play. The longest-running major production in the stage history of Titus Andronicus, directed by Silviu Purcarete, originated at the National Theatre of Craiova. Like Stein, Purcarete also seized upon Titus's description of Rome as a 'wilderness of tigers' as the basis for his production's soundtrack, which 'consisted of disturbing, howling music intermixed with the predatory growls of tigers'. Of all the directors who attempted Titus in the decade following the Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) landmark 1987 production, Purcarete most closely resembled Deborah Warner in his attitude toward the play's black comedy. Moreover, in contrast to Warner's full-text rendition, Purcarete 'ruthlessly cut' the original play to suit his political agenda.

in Titus Andronicus
Abstract only
Michael D. Friedman
and
Alan Dessen

Antony Sher and his partner and collaborator, director Gregory Doran agreed to conduct a workshop exchange with the Market Theatre of Johannesburg which eventually grew into a multi-ethnic and multinational production of Titus Andronicus. Doran's liberties with the text provoked little backlash in the press compared to his decision to have his actors speak in various South African accents. Some critics derided the Market Theatre production for its presentation of Tamora disguised as Revenge. South Africans are no strangers to real-life violence, and according to members of the Market Theatre cast such as Charlton George (Chiron), they often use 'humour to deal with the horror'. To the extent that Doran and Sher set in motion a lively discussion about art, violence, and race relations in contemporary South Africa, their production was a significant achievement.

in Titus Andronicus
Michael D. Friedman
and
Alan Dessen

Emulating a more distant predecessor, Jeannette Lambermont and Daniel Mesguich modelled their productions on the stylised efforts of Peter Brook, while Michael Maggio cautiously imitated the realistic presentation of Jane Howell's BBC-TV version. Brook's most memorable choice in his stylisation of the violent action in Titus Andronicus was to employ scarlet ribbons in place of blood, a technique he adapted from Asian theatre. Gerald Freedman's New York Shakespeare Festival production borrowed the same strategy and made the Asian connection explicit by using costumes that '"recreated an unknown people of a non-specific time" with elements of "Roman-Byzantine and feudal Japanese"'. Director Jeannette Lambermont, in her Stratford, Ontario production, pursued a similar strategy by mixing ancient Roman design with colourful and ritualistic aspects of Eastern theatre. Lambermont's production employed several features borrowed from traditional Japanese theatrical forms.

in Titus Andronicus
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Looking toward the future
Michael D. Friedman
and
Alan Dessen

Post-Restoration editors, reacting to the Titus Andronicus violent horrors and stylistic shortcomings tended to deny the existence of William Shakespeare's hand in the tragedy entirely. Towards the end of the twentieth-century, scholarly editions of the play began to account for some of the play's inadequacies by positing various strata of alterations. In contrast to late twentieth-century editors who blamed Shakespeare for sloppy revision of his own work, Brian Boyd exculpated Shakespeare by holding George Peele solely responsible for the irregularity created by his unsanctioned change of plan. Centuries of debate over the play's authorship culminated in the publication of Brian Vickers's Shakespeare, Co-Author, which sought to establish a new scholarly consensus about Shakespeare's collaboration with Peele in the tragedy's composition. The co-authorship studies of Vickers and Boyd may encourage directors to reconsider radically their assumptions about the text of Titus Andronicus and how it can be staged.

in Titus Andronicus
Abstract only
Michael D. Friedman
and
Alan Dessen

This chapter is devoted to productions appearing in the first decade since the publication of Alan C. Dessen's volume, excluding Julie Taymor's stage production. It concerns Taymor's dramatic work at Theatre for a New Audience, as well as the film deriving from that theatrical event. The chapter describes the lines of descent that incline toward Taymor's version of the play. It then takes up performances occurring since the cinematic release of Titus Andronicus, many of which exhibit the pervasive influence of that film. The chapter follows Dessen's precedent in examining recent productions by way of their solutions to the various 'problems' presented by Titus Andronicus. It also focuses on the cultural and historical circumstances surrounding each production that helped to shape the specific meaning generated through the collaboration of contemporary theatre professionals with William Shakespeare through his text.

in Titus Andronicus
Michael D. Friedman
and
Alan Dessen

The 1955 triumph of the Peter Brook-Laurence Olivier Titus Andronicus demonstrated that William Shakespeare's script was, or could be, actable. By focusing on the mythic or ritualistic side of the tragedy, Gerald Freedman helped to bring Titus back into the circle of 'performable' Shakespeare plays. To invoke images of Fascism when staging one of Shakespeare's Roman plays was not 'new' in 1967, but Douglas Seale may have been the first to present a Fascist Titus. A different set of choices and a different approach to 'realism' are provided by the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Titus with all shows directed by Trevor Nunn. Jane Howell rejected the stylised effects familiar in other productions. The productions directed by Freedman, Laird Williamson, Pat Patton, and Paul Barry show one line of descent from Brook in the choice to stylise some or many of the elements in the script.

in Titus Andronicus
Michael D. Friedman
and
Alan Dessen

In 1598 Francis Meres lists Titus Andronicus among William Shakespeare's tragedies. Performed intermittently in the early years of the eighteenth century, Edward Ravenscroft's Titus in 1717 became a major vehicle for James Quin, the first of many actors who found grand opportunities in the role of Aaron. Except for the Ravenscroft adaptation, Titus was more of a curiosity than a theatrical playscript between the seventeenth and the twentieth centuries. Edward Trostle Jones argues that Peter Brook's 'stylized distancing effects' allowed the spectator to 'accept the horror of the play without experiencing total revulsion'. And to reach 'the beauty beneath the barbarism of Titus Andronicus requires the repressive mode for presentation'. Before Brook-Laurence Olivier, the most notable production was the 1923 rendition at the Old Vic, directed by Robert Atkins as part of a mounting of all thirty-seven plays over a seven-year period.

in Titus Andronicus