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 It begins with Edward Ravenscroft's version that superseded Shakespeare's script.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.
to play the nightmare for all it is worth, or
spare the audience’s feelings by avoiding too much realism (or seeming
realism)’. Seale, Trevor Nunn, Jane Howell, Mark Rucker, and DeborahWarner chose to
present that nightmare (‘when will this fearful slumber have an end?’) without
recourse to red ribbons, red China silk, masks, or ritualised action. Thus, Colin Blakely,
who had reservations about the ‘formal, almost ritualized style’ and the
‘symbolic and very cold’ violence of the Brook production, argued that in an
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 DeborahWarner.
Three of these five directors (Ninagawa, Edwards, and Rose) also took inspiration from
Taymor’s film, as evidenced by their focus, at the end of their productions, on the
relationship between Young Lucius and Aaron’s baby.
Ninagawa Company, Saitama, Japan, 2004,
2006 – Dir. Yukio Ninagawa
In 1995, Yoshiko Kawachi
or problems and have arrived at a variety of strategies to stage or
contain this script. Many of these strategies involve substantive changes; a few do not.
Thus, for many playgoers at the Swan and the Pit DeborahWarner’s production worked
– with no cutting of the script and very little stylised action. Given the right
variables, Titus is indeed playable, as has also been demonstrated by other productions,
most notably Peter Brook’s (with its very different approach to the original script
and to music, set, design
overwriting into our idiom. To include all the scenes, lines, and stage imagery (as
in James Sandoe’s 1967 Colorado Shakespeare Festival production) is certainly no sure
ticket to success and may, in fact, involve considerable theatrical (and box-office) risk.
So wherein lies the incentive to stage the play uncut?
An answer is provided by the 1987 Royal Shakespeare Company production at
the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon (remounted in 1988 at the Pit in the Barbican)
directed by DeborahWarner
intense physical and emotional pain she was
Certain reviewers seized upon Stein’s emphasis on sexual cruelty as
an analogue to political brutality, which differentiated the Italian production from Warner’s recent version.
Michael Coveney wrote that, in Stein’s hands, ‘[t]he play becomes much more a
discussion on political and sexual sadism … than it did in DeborahWarner’s
very different but comparatively fine 1987 version for the RSC, which treated the
play’s excesses as a means of testing the human
can be naturalistic (in the sense
that it creates a style for the production in which the reciprocal
relationship between characters and their environment is given an
appropriate aesthetic form).
The reconfiguring of ‘literal’ space to
emphasise the metaphoric and synecdochal possibilities of the domestic
environments is also a feature of DeborahWarner’s Hedda
directors (with a few notable exceptions – most significantly, DeborahWarner
in her 1987–88 Royal Shakespeare Company rendition) have resorted to substantial cuts
and other alterations. To look closely at the performance history of Titus between
1955 and 1988 is therefore to confront some provocative questions. My goal in this book is
to raise and address those questions.
First and most obvious is: why has this particular play posed such severe
problems for generations of readers, critics, editors, actors, directors, and
military events filtered
through an awareness of how the media shaped those events for the
general public. Few Shakespeare productions have achieved a greater
sense of imminent topicality than DeborahWarner’s 2005
Caesar at the Barbican. If honour and principle were the
watchwords for Caesars of the nineteenth century, and
totalitarianism the core of twentieth, the word which ghosts
During the years immediately following DeborahWarner’s acclaimed 1987 RSC production, succeeding directors of Titus
Andronicus declined to follow her example of playing an uncut script and making the
most of the text’s opportunities for dark comedy. Three of the four 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 that Warner had
welcomed. Emulating a more distant