26/08/2016 - 03/09/2016
LIKE BLOODY VILLAINS: SLIP OF THE TONGUE RETURNS WITH TITUS ANDRONICUS
Slip of the Tongue is back after three-year hiatus with William Shakespeare’s big, bold, and bloody play Titus Andronicus, led by Alec Forbes in the title role of Titus and Maria Jane Eaton as the goth Queen Tamora, with Benny Marama as Aaron.
Written between 1588 and 1593, the play tells the fictional story of Titus, a Roman general who has returned from 10 years at war with the Queen of the Goths as a prisoner. Titus’ unflinching dedication to Roman tradition and his inability to change ultimately leads to a cycle of revenge so bloody, that only a few are left standing.
Slip of the Tongue last performed Titus Andronicus in 2003, with Mark Servian directing a politically charged “workout for the mind”.
Director Pip Smith played Lavinia in that production. She remembers having no particular idea as to what to do, “I wasn’t sure how to act someone who had lost their tongue, I sounded a bit like a seal pup trying to yelp to communicate”.
At 26 she went on to direct the Summer Shakespeare Pericles Prince of Tyre, before moving on to train at Unitec and work in Auckland theatre as a stage and properties manager for companies such Silo Theatre Company. “Slip of the Tongue really transitioned me from being an awkward teenager with no experience into pursuing theatre as a lifelong passion.”
Whilst a sense of nostalgia for the past may have at first drawn Pip back into the arms of Hamilton theatre; “I really wanted to see Maria Jane Eaton versus Alec Forbes onstage. The opportunity to see amazing acting is and will always be my prime reason for seeing a play let alone directing one.” Smith adds “Also, the visual aspect of theatre will always be important to me, and this play is about as challenging as it comes in both regards. How do you balance the epic with the intimate? How do you stage all that slaughter?”.
Slip’s tradition of using experienced professionals alongside up and coming talent extends to the creative team, with live music composed and performed by The Volume Collective’s Wairehu Grant (who also designed the poster) and the lighting designed by Smith’s fellow Slip of the Tongue “graduate” Zoe Timbrell.
This production aims to be as disarmingly beautiful as it is unsettling.
WHAT: Titus Andronicus
WHEN: 26th and 27th of August – 1st, 2nd and 3rd of September
WHERE: The Meteor (1 Victoria St, Hamilton)
COST: $15 full/$12 concession.
Tickets available at https://www.iticket.co.nz/events/2016/aug/titus-andronicus
Titus Andronicus: Alec Forbes
Tamora: Maria Jane Eaton
Saturninus: Mark Houlahan
Lucius: Carl Watkins
Marcus Andronicus: Adrian Holroyd
Bassianus: Tim Kapoor
Lavinia: Genevieve Sheffield
Aaron: Benny Marama
Demetrius: Ross MacLeod
Chiron : Philip Garrity
Young Lucia: Emily Broughton
Aemilius: Grant Hughes
Quintus: Jason Hansen
Martius/Publius: Jesse Ward
Mutius: Ravi Prasad
Nurse: Katie Hansen
Clown: David Sutcliffe
Alarbus/Caius: Tim von Ahsen
Goths/Soldiers: Ellen Barnard, Abigail Simpson, Alice Kapoor
PRODUCTION AND CREATIVE TEAM
Director/Producer: Pip Smith
Lighting Design: Zoe Timbrell
Costumes: Katie Hansen
Music: Wairehu Grant
Set/Props: Jo Williams and Pip Smith
Marketing: Benny Marama
Stage Manager: Hamish Balderston
Lighting Operator: Jonathan Wilce
Fight Choreography: Ross MacLeod
Poster Design: Wairehu Grant
Polished, cohesive, bloody and satisfying
Review by Cate Prestidge 03rd Sep 2016
Titus Andronicus! It’s got everything: war, ambition, sacrifice, revenge, loyalty, betrayal, love, lust, villainy and, finally, some sort of mad, cannibalistic justice. A touch more revenge than love, to be honest, but like most of Shakespeare’s tragedies, a ripping good yarn, with plenty of blood on the floor.
Slip of the Tongue theatre company, under Director Pip Smith, has pulled together a polished ensemble for this show with uniformly excellent performances from leads and supporting roles.
The action opens with the Emperor’s sons Saturninus (Mark Houlahan) and Bassianus (Tim Kapoor) each making a claim for the Roman crown. They are interrupted by the return of Titus Andronicus (Alec Forbes) and his surviving sons from war with the Goths. They bring their captives: Tamora, the Goth Queen (Maria Jane Eaton), her three sons, and a fearsome Moor (Benny Marama).
Cue a speedy vengeful execution of Tamora’s oldest son, and the chance for the audience to get a taste of the dramatic, and entertaining performance Eaton will deliver over the next hour and a half.
The plot travels fast, especially in the opening 15 minutes, so it is useful to have a basic working knowledge of the action and relationships. Ultimately, revenge is exacted and justice done, but it’s a long and dreadful process and there are plenty dispatched along the way. Knowing what’s to come however, makes the realisation of it all the more satisfying, and Director Pip Smith tackles the visual challenges of staging in a variety of clever ways.
The stage is large and well-designed; all available entrances and exits are utilised effectively, layers of light fabric walls create a backdrop for lighting designer Zoe Timbrell to wash with colour and symbolic, sculptural pieces are used cleverly to denote different settings.
The ensemble look comfortable in their roles and there is satisfying interplay between them in every scene. Alec Forbes is commanding as the exhausted Titus, and Houlahan establishes early dominance as Saturninus, which the audience later enjoys seeing subverted.
Kapoor is appealing and believable as decent Bassianus. Adrian Holroyd, as Marcus Andronicus, is excellent and helps anchor the action as a steadying force amid the madness while Benny Marama, is menacing and controlled as Aaron.
Carl Watkins’ focus and physical intensity is well suited to the role of Titus’ son Lucius, who grows in prominence throughout the play, and Genevieve Sheffield shows great control and range between Lavinia’s sass and confidence in the early stages of the play, and her utter physical and mental destruction.
Titus Andronicus has some thoroughly unlikeable characters, including the depraved and vile sons of Tamora, Demetrius and Chrion, performed with evil relish by Ross MacLeod and Philip Garrity, and Tamora herself is performed by Eaton with appropriate dramatic excess. Despite their foulness, these characters give us moments of delicious lightness, especially in the scene where they fancifully try to bewitch a grieving and unhinged Titus.
The music by Wairehu Grant is innovative and expressive, and present throughout the performance in both ambient and more narrative form. My companion and I enjoy his quiet, industrious presence at the side of the stage and both feel his music is an effective way to set scene, quickly shift mood and support the action. There is only one place it seems intrusive which is a scene where Eaton, performing from the back, is hard to hear against the music, which is being played closer to the audience.
The production team of music, set and lighting design, costume and props has obviously worked cohesively to realise Smith’s directorial vision and are integral to its success.
It’s great to see Slip of the Tongue back with such a successful and cohesive show.
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