Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

05/03/2009 - 07/03/2009

Auckland Fringe 2009

Production Details


As part of Auckland Fringe Festival and Shakespeare Globe Center New Zealand’s Complete Works 2009 Project, Elephant presents Titus. This is not your standard, ordinary Shakespeare production. Titus is a high paced, action packed interpretation of Shakespeare’s first play, Titus Andronicus. This play is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s darkest and most gruesome.

By S. Clarke Hulse’s count, Titus Andronicus is a play with ’14 killings, 6 severed members, 1 rape, 1 live burial, 1 case of insanity and 1 of cannibalism–an average of 5.2 atrocities per act, or one for every 97 lines.’

The play itself describes the story of Titus Andronicus, Roman general, who returns from ten years of war with only four out of twenty-five sons left. He has captured Tamora, Queen of the Goths, her three sons, and Aaron the Moor. In obedience to Roman rituals, he sacrifices her eldest son to his own dead sons, which earns him Tamora’s unending hatred and her promise of revenge. Through a series of events Tamora gains a powerful position in Rome and seeks revenge on Titus. This leads to murder, rape and cannibalism committed by both parties until practically everyone is dead!   

Elephant is a new company which is made up of fresh new Auckland talent as well as established talent in both comedy and theatre. Many of the younger members of the company have either once belonged or do belong to the New Zealand Youth Shakespeare Company, which every year performs at the Globe Theatre in London. The idea of the piece is to take some of Shakespeare’s works and refresh and rejuvenate them in order to make them more accessible to a modern audience, much in the same way Shrew’d did earlier this year. This involves fast action packed theatre that is both entertaining and exciting for the audience.

With a combination of original, dark and ominous live music and powerful physical imagery, this dark Shakespearean epic is brought to life on the Basement stage on the 5th, 6th and 7th of March. Be prepared for this high risk, action packed, passion-fueled classic drama.

Violence and sexual themes.

The Basement (Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD)
Thursday 5th – Saturday 7th March
6:30pm- 8:00pm 
Tickets: $20/$15
Tickets available through Aotea Centre Box Office (09) 357 3355 or www.buytickets.co.nz

The Auckland Fringe runs from 27th February to 22nd March 2009.
For more Auckland Fringe information go to www.aucklandfringe.org.nz

Well worked version of gruesome play

Review by James Amos 06th Mar 2009

Wow! As a Shakespeare lover who had never seen this play before, I was dead keen to come along.  The play opens with a prologue in song (I love live music mixed with theatre). The sweet tones of Pulina Lau and Jeremy Olds’ strings and percussion are a treat right the way through the show.

Next comes the first scene – in which the Goths are defeated in battle by the Andronici. I thought the costumes (designed by Phoebe Mason) were cool – especially the body art which adorns the Goths. This is simple, effective and it makes it easy to recognise who’s who.

The thing with Shakespeare is that one’s ears adjust to the language just as ones eyes adjust to a change in the light, so if you think you’re not a Shakespeare person – go along anyway!

At first, the screen used to create shadow effects impressed me, but as the play wore on I began to resent it with a loathing that rivals Tamora’s hatred of Titus and his ilk. Ok that’s way over the top: the passion of the play must have got to me. However, I did become very disappointed at the amount of stage space this set takes up.

All the best bits of the stage for acting are taken up by set and this causes the action to be presented too far forward. Much of the audience has to strain their necks to fully perceive what is going on at the feet of the front row. Of course, in a bigger space this would not be an issue, but it would be great if there were a way to remove one of the sets of screens altogether.

The play is well known for its gruesomeness, and this production is no exception, presented through a mixture of blood sashes, expertly choreographed fight sequences and (for the more unsavoury moments) off stage action using the aforementioned shadow screen. A companion of mine found these parts the most compelling (note to ladies with resistant blokes: This is the show to get them to come to – It ain’t no "chick flick"!).

I was left thinking "When will all this revenge end?" It feels so contemporary with the terrorist Goths, the ritual murder of a daughter in order to suppress her dishonour (I won’t spoil the plot by saying who) – this stuff is going on some where in the world right now!

The insanity of it all is captured poignantly by Marcus (Jack Walley) and Titus (Phil Jones, who’s voice is a joy to the ears).
"Why dost thou laugh? It fits not with this hour." 
"Why, I have not another tear to shed."

The dastardly Aaron, perhaps literature’s 1st equivalent of what’s known today as the Gangster Rapper, the self proclaimed villainous moor, is beautifully played by Taofia Tauiliili Pelesasa. He had me hanging on his every word.

All in all the entire cast does a great job. A couple of moments I’d like to mention …

The fantastic comic / combat scene between Demetrius (Chris Neels) and Chiron (Ash Jones) flows so well and is the perfect change of pace from the rest of the show. Also, not so favourably, the scene in which Marcus, in what seems to be a fairly blasé demeanour, addresses his brutalised niece.  I was left wondering. is this an appropriate response to the situation?. On the surface one would be forgiven for taking this to be Shakespeare’s flaw in adding too much verbiage to this scene, but no, there must be a way to let the words enhance and express the grief that poor Marcus is feeling; not to mention poor speechless Lavinia.

In all I think the play is well worked by the Co-directors, Imogen Miller and Particia Olds, making the story very clear and exciting to watch. However I do feel that the ending is slightly abrupt and there must be a way for it to wrap up in a manner that brings less amusement to the audience. Perhaps the two go hand in hand …

I will be watching with great interest what ‘Elephant Theatre’ comes up with next and would heartily recommend that you go and see this show!


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