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Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

The decade 1989–99 witnessed the resurgence of Titus as a political tract, with three major European directors (Peter Stein, Silviu Purcarete, and Gregory Doran) focusing their attention on the ways in which the play can be made to comment on specific contemporary affairs. Their productions (consciously or not) therefore duplicated the approach adopted in 1967 by Douglas Seale, the first director to employ modern dress to draw ‘parallels between the violence and wholesale murder of our times and the time

in Titus Andronicus
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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 It begins with Edward Ravenscroft's version that superseded Shakespeare's script.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.

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Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

Stein (Rome’s Teatro Ateneo, 1989–90), Silviu Purcarete (Theatre National de Craiova, Romania, 1993–97), Gregory Doran (Market Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1995 ), and Richard Rose (Stratford, Ontario, 2000 ). However, the best known ‘political’ rendition of Titus Andronicus is the stage production directed in 1994 by Julie Taymor, for New York’s Theatre for a New Audience, and later made into the feature film Titus (1999). Taymor’s version of the play not only stressed a modern preoccupation with

in Titus Andronicus
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Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

aimed for a political rendition of Titus in the new tradition inaugurated by Douglas Seale and continued by Peter Stein and Silviu Purcarete. 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. Four years later, Julie Taymor’s film version of the play, based on her New York stage production, went two steps further by incorporating even more comprehensively all four lines of descent in

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

evocation of … laughter for striking effects’ (see p. 119 ). By embracing the play’s painful comedy rather than attempting to skirt it, Taymor distinguished her efforts from those of Peter Brook, who cut every line that threatened to provoke uncomfortable laughs. As Taymor suggested, ‘He didn’t get the humor, Brook, he kind of missed that. It’s in the script, and I think it’s what makes it almost “theater of the absurd”’ (quoted in Eby). Taymor did not, however, like Silviu Purcarete, set the entire play in a

in Titus Andronicus