14 Jul Titus Andronicus
Directed by Andrew Hilton
09 February – 18 March 2006
Production Photos © 2006 Graham Burke
Saturninus Paul Currier
Bassianus & 1st Goth Philip Buck
Marcus Andronicus Roland Oliver
Tribune & Poor Man Peter Townsend
Titus Andronicus Bill Wallis
Lucius Andronicus Matthew Thomas
Quintus Andronicus & 2nd Goth Ben Ingles
Martius Andronicus & Publius Phil Mulryne
Mutius Andronicus & Caius Sempronius Craig Fuller
Tamora Lucy Black
Alarbus & Emillius Jonathan Gunning
Demetrius Tom Sherman
Chiron Jacob Dylan Thomas
Aaron Leo Wringer
Lavinia Catherine Hamilton
Servant & Nurse Siobhan McMillan
Young Lucius James Hilton & Michael Smith
Director Andrew Hilton
Associate Director & Editor Dominic Power
Set & Costume Designer Vicki Cowan-Ostersen
Costume Supervisor Rosalind Marshall
Lighting Designer Paul Towson
Composer John Telfer
Murders & Other Effects Peter Clifford
Production Manager Jonathan Yeoman
Stage Manager Jayne Byrom
Deputy Stage Manager Eleanor Dixon
Assistant Stage Manager Adam Moore
Costume Laundry Kim Winter
★★★★ The Guardian Watching Andrew Hilton’s engrossing production, it is hard to understand why Shakespeare’s play has been so neglected. True, it is a banquet of blood-letting, rape, murder and mutilation – but, as Hilton proves, it is much more than some 17th-century spatter-movie. Its themes of revenge and retribution, and a cycle of violence that leads only to more blood-letting until families are wiped out and the state totters, remains pertinent, not least because of the protagonists’ highly developed sense of self-righteousness about their bloody acts. This may rob the characters of tragic status, but the drama nevertheless has moments of great tragedy: Titus’ discovery of his ravished and mutilated daughter Lavinia, alone in the forest like a wounded doe, is full of pity and horror.
Hilton transposes the play to the 18th century, so that the bewigged finish of the men and the formality of the music offer a sharp contrast to the chaos that ensues as Rome is transformed into “a wilderness of tigers”. The artistic director is known for his restraint, and here it plays dividends, keeping the grand guignol and the giggles in check as the body count rises.
The extent to which Shakespeare makes women and blacks (the Goth queen Tamora and her Moor lover Aaron) shoulder most of the blame may be uncomfortable to modern sensibilities. But neither Shakespeare nor Hilton shirks from showing how disaster stems from Titus Andronicus’ initial foolish lack of compassion and justice.
Looking like Antony Worrall Thompson, Bill Wallis as Titus cooks up vengeance effectively … but the acting honours belong to the women, with Lucy Black steely and sexy as Tamora and Catherine Hamilton heartbreaking as the maimed and voiceless Lavinia. Lyn Gardner
The Observer Titus Andronicus, which went for two centuries without a full staging, is – well – flavour of the month. Perhaps a new suspicion of empire has led to productions this spring by the Globe and the RSC. But first off is Andrew Hilton’s always innovative Tobacco Factory.
The design is sober: a sand-coloured floor; pillars tied with black mourning bows. The dress is 18th-century. With one bold stroke, Hilton tugs you through a narrative which can easily be a roaring welter. At the end of an episode, the light dies apart from on one spot – it focuses on an abandoned baby, or on a dead limb. And he dares to make the goriest parts of the plot – when tongues and limbs are lopped, when people are baked in a pie – look real.
Catherine Hamilton, who has spoken and moved so delicately, stands shaking with pain and sorrow; her lopped-off hands are red stumps; she drips blood; soundless words bubble up in her throat. Bill Wallis’s crabby, wizened Titus turns up for the pie-tasting in a chef’s hat, as spry as some twinkle-toed nursery-rhyme cook. As he serves the portions, wobbling with fleshy gobbets, he licks the carving knife.
It’ll be hard for the other imperial pie-eaters to match such intensity. Susannah Clapp
The Stage Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory have chosen their patron’s rough-and-ready first shot at tragedy to launch their seventh season of highly accessible theatre.
Geared originally to the Elizabethan theatregoers’ love of blood and guts, the story of revenge best served hot offers a number of modern themes – a monumental if flawed hero and the constant resort to violence for political and personal ends, to name but two.
Artistic director Andrew Hilton and designer Vicki Cowan-Ostersen have essayed several boldly innovative strokes, not least the choice of full Regency attire, complete with powdered wigs, for the warring Roman factions. This grinds at first, but slowly the dichotomy between the fanciful dress and their bloody acts of murder and mutilation strikes home. So too does the playing of the title role by Bill Wallis as a military conqueror very much in decline, stricken by grief but still capable of terrible deeds. Likewise, Roland Oliver lends the dignity of age to Titus’ upright brother Marcus and there is a powerful performance from Matthew Thomas as Titus’ eldest son Lucius.
On the dark side of the moral conflict, Lucy Black is a chilling Queen of the Goths, while Leo Wringer glories in his own evil cunning in contrast to Paul Currier’s weakling Emperor Saturninus.
The vigorous and intelligent approach is enhanced by a striking organ and trumpet-dominated score by John Telfer. Jeremy Brien
Titus Andronicus has had a chequered life. As far as we know, it was among the most popular – perhaps the most popular and most frequently performed – of Shakespeare’s plays during his lifetime. But as tastes changed during the eighteenth century, it was considered too violent and harsh – too indecorous – and disparaged accordingly. The Victorians thought no better of it and it was really not until after the second world war that it became rehabilitated – most influentially by Peter Brook in a production in 1955 starring Laurence Olivier and Vivienne Leigh – and gradually re-established itself in the Shakespeare repertoire.
Its long period of dishonourable exile prompted myths and errors that persist to this day – principally that it was not by Shakespeare at all, or that it was a collaboration between him and a number of unknown hacks, or that it wasShakespeare’s but merely an early, imitative work designed to pander to the very lowest of tastes. We can now be confident that none of these notions had any basis in fact and that their purpose, conscious or unconscious, was to legitimise the disregard of a powerful (and undoubtedly Shakespearean) text that both readers and audience found far too hot to handle.
Its violent story – and the passionate self-righteousness of all the doers of its terrible deeds – now seems all too topical. It is truly a play for today, demanding of us the complex responses and understanding that events, local, national and international, ask of us week by week.
At the same time it is – as all good theatre must be – thoroughly entertaining and moving, with moments of terrible laughter. We find such ways to retell these events in order to manage and cope with them; to remain human by including them, rather than by attempting – as eighteenth century readers did – to deny their authenticity and banish them from our consciousness.
Is it History?
Titus Andronicus is a dramatic tale, not a historical document. None of its principal characters or events are historical as portrayed here. However the play does allude to crucial events in Roman history, principally the expulsion of King Tarquin and his family from the city – following Tarquin’s son’s infamous rape of Lucrece – and the establishment of the Roman Republic. Shakespeare had already told this story in his narrative poem, The Rape of Lucrece, first published in 1594.
In his superb new ‘Arden’ edition of the play – to which we are greatly indebted – Jonathan Bate argues convincingly that it can also be seen as a critical portrait of the whole sweep of Roman history from the beginning of the Empire to its decline; and that one can even find in it references to the decline of that second Roman Imperial power, the Catholic Church – with the Goths echoing the role of German Protestantism in the Reformation.
Ovid’s great work, Metamorphoses, the series of mythological tales which – in Arthur Golding’s English 1567 translation – formed one of the great sourcebooks of Elizabethan literature, is Shakespeare’s principal source for the play. Ovid tells the story of Philomel, raped and mutilated by her brother-in-law, Tereus – a hideous deed that leads to the most hideous of revenges. We quote from Golding’s text later in this programme. Into this Shakespeare weaves the echoes of the more factual rape of Lucrece by Sextus Tarquinius. We also quote Shaksepeare’s introductory ‘argument’ to his own The Rape of Lucrece.
The play’s most important theatrical antecedent was Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, a play which influencedHamlet as well as Titus Andronicus. Kyd tells of a father whose son is murdered and, finding both the state and the law (ironically he is himself a Minister of State and a Justice) deaf to his appeals, plans and executes an elaborately staged revenge.
As part of its effort to devalue, even disown, this extraordinary play, literary tradition for centuries claimed it as a piece of ‘juvenilia’, written before 1590 – and therefore predating the Henry Vl trilogy. But we are now almost certain that it belongs to 1593/4 – and is therefore contemporary with The Rape of Lucrece and The Taming of the Shrew,and an immediate forerunner to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet.
After its successful 1594 premiere – very probably at Henslowe’s Rose Theatre – it became a favourite of Shakepeare’s audience and was frequently revived. It was also soon performed (in English) in Germany and, in the 1630s, in a Dutch adaptation in Amsterdam.
After the Restoration, it appeared in various versions, most notably in one by Edward Ravenscroft, from which we have learnt (and borrowed) in editing the script for this production. But it then fell into disfavour and though revived by the black actor-manager Ira Aldridge in 1857 it was in a very radical adaptation that omitted virtually all the play’s violence. Aldridge saw the play as a vehicle for his own talents – he was already a famous Othello – and he reconceived Aaron as a ‘noble and lofty’ character, very much the hero of the piece.
It was Robert Atkins who dared to present the play in its original form at the London Old Vic in 1923 – two hundred years after the last performance of Ravenscroft’s version. This was followed by student productions in America, and in London in 1951, by a severely shortened, but very bloody production at the Irving Theatre, conceived by Kenneth Tynan and Peter Myers.
It was only with Peter Brook’s famous Stratford production in 1955, starring Laurence Olivier and Vivienne Leigh, that the play became accepted by the modern British theatre and its great roles – Titus, Tamora, Lavinia and Aaron – coveted by its leading actors.
This is my prayer: Civil War
fattening on men’s ruin shall
not thunder in our city. Let
not the dry dust that drinks
the black blood of citizens
through passion for revenge
and bloodshed for bloodshed
be given our state to prey upon.
Let them render grace for grace.
Let love be their common will;
let them hate with single heart.
Much wrong in the world thereby is healed.
The avenging Furies won over by the Goddess Athene at the conclusion to Aeschylus’ The Oresteia (translated by Richard Lattimore)
And art thou come, Horatio, from the depth,
To ask for justice in this upper earth?
To tell thy father thou art unrevenged?
Go back my son, complain to Aeacus,
For here’s no justice; gentle boy be gone,
For justice is exiled from the earth.
Hieronimo, to the ghost of his murdered son in The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd,c.1590
REVENGE is a kind of wild justice; which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out. For as for the first wrong, it doth but offend the law; but the revenge of that wrong pulleth the law out of office. Certainly, in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince’s part to pardon …
The most tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which there is no law or remedy; but then let a man take heed the revenge be such as there is no law to punish; else a man’s enemy is still beforehand, and it is two for one.
Some, when they take revenge, are desirous the party should know whence it cometh: this is the more generous. For the delight seemeth to be not so much in doing the hurt as in making the party repent: but base and crafty cowards are like the arrow that flieth in the dark …
This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.
Public revenges are for the most part fortunate; as that for the death of Caesar; for the death of Henry the Third of France; and many more. But in private revenges it is not so. Nay rather, vindictive persons live the life of witches; who as they are mischievous, so end they unfortunate.
Francis Bacon, On Revenge, 1625
The blood pouring out of Palestine must be equally revenged.
Osama bin Laden in his Letter to the American People, 2002
My family and I stand by what we believe: forgiveness.
Gee Walker, the mother of Anthony, murdered by racists, 2005
The Rape of Philomel
edited extracts from Arthur Golding’s 1567 translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses
[King Tereus marries Progne, but is consumed with lust for her sister Philomel. He secretly imprisons her in a remote grange, rapes her and then cuts out her tongue to stop her ‘blazing’ abroad his terrible deed.]
Tereus took the Lady by the hand,
And led her to a paltry grange that distantly did stand
In woods o’ergrowen. There waxing pale and trembling sore for fear,
And dreading all things, and with tears demanding sadly where
His sister was, he shut her up: and therewithall betrayed
His wicked lust, and so by force because she was a Maid
And all alone he vanquished her. It booted nought at all
That she on Sister, or on Sire, or on the Gods did call.
She quaketh like the wounded Lamb which, from the Wolf’s hore teeth
New shaken, thinks herself not safe: or as the Dove that seeth
Her feathers with her own blood stained, who shudd’ring still doth fear
The greedy Hawk that did her late with griping talons tear.
Anon when that this mazedness was somewhat overpast,
She rent her haire, and beat her breast, and up to heavenward cast
Her hands in mourningwise, and said: “O cankerd Carle, O fell
And cruel Tyrant, neither could the godly tears that fell
Adown my father’s cheeks when he did give thee charge of me,
Ne of my sister that regard that ought to be in thee,
Nor yet my chaste virginity, nor conscience of the law
Of wedlock, from this villainy thy barb’rous heart withdraw? …
But if the Gods do see this deed, and if the Gods, I say,
Be ought, and in this wicked world bear any kind of sway
And if with me all other things decay not, sure the day
Will come that for this wickedness full dearly thou shalt pay.
Yea, I myself rejecting shame thy doings will betray.
And if I may have power to come abroad, them blaze I will
In open face of all the world. Or if thou keep me still
As prisoner in these woods, my voice the very woods shall fill
And make the stones to understand. Let Heaven to this give ear
And all the Gods and powers therein if any God be there.”
The cruell tyrant being chafed and also put in fear
With these and other such her words, both causes so him stung
That drawing out his naked sword that at his girdle hung,
He took her rudely by the hair, and wrung her hands behind her,
Compelling her to hold them there while he himself did bind her.
Then with a pair of pincers fast did catch her by the tongue,
And with his sword did cut it off. The stump whereon it hung
Did patter still. The tip fell down and quivering on the ground
As though that it had murmured it made a certain sound.
And as an Adder’s tail cut off doth skip a while: even so
The tip of Philomela’s tongue did wriggle to and fro,
And nearer to her mistressward in dying still did go.
And after this most cruel act, for certain men report
That he (I scarcely dare believe) did oftentimes resort
To maimed Philomela and abused her at his will:
Yet after all this wickedness he keeping count’nance still,
Durst unto Progne home repair. And she immediately
Demanded where her sister was. He sighing feignedly
Did tell her falsely she was dead: and with his subtle tears
He maketh all his tale to seem of credit in her ears …
[Philomel remains a captive, her plight unknown to her sister, Progne. At last she stitches her story into a sampler, which is carried to her sister.]
The Sun had in the Skies
Past through the twelve celestial signs, and finished full a year.
But what should Philomela do? She watchèd was so near
That start she could not for her life. The walls of that same grange
Were made so high of main hard stone, that out she could not range.
Again her tongueless mouth did want the utterance of the fact.
Great is the wit of pensiveness, and when the head is raked
With hard misfortune, sharp forecast of practise entereth in.
A warp of white upon a frame of Thracia she did pin,
And weaved purple letters in between it, which betrayed
The wicked deed of Tereus. And having done, she prayed
A certain woman by her signs to bear them to her mistress.
She bore them and delivered them not knowing ne’etheless
What was in them. The Tyrant’s wife unfolded all the clout,
And of her wretched fortune read the process whole throughout.
She held her peace (a wondrous thing it is she should so do)
But sorrow tied her tongue, and words agreeable unto
Her great displeasure were not at commandment at that stound.
And weep she could not. Right and wrong she reckeneth to confound,
And on revengement of the deed her heart doth wholly ground.
[Progne’s rage against Tereus is transferred to their son, Itys, when the sight of him reminds her of his father. She drags him through the woods and in the grange stabs him with a sword. Philomel then slits his throat. They cook him up and serve him to Tereus at a banquet.]
She dragged Itys after her, as when it haps in Inde
A Tyger gets a little Calf that sucks upon a Hynd
And drags him through the shady woods. And when that they had found
A place within the house far off and far above the ground,
Then Progne strake him with a sword. Enough had been that wound
Alone to bring him to his end. The other sister slit
His throat. And while some life and soul was in his members yet,
In gobbets they them rent: whereof were some in pipkins boiled,
And other some on hissing spits against the fire were broiled,
And with the jellied blood of him was all the chamber soiled.
To this same banquet Progne bade her husband. Knowing nought
Nor nought mistrusting of the harm and lewdness she had wrought,
King Tereus sitting in the throne of his forefathers, fed
And swallowed down the selfsame flesh that of his bowels bred.
And he (so blinded was his heart) “Fetch Itys hither,” said.
No longer her most cruel joy dissemble could the Queen.
But of her murder coveting the messenger to be,
She said: “The thing thou askest for, thou hast within.” About
He looked round, and asked “Where?” To put him out of doubt,
As he was yet demanding where, and calling for him, out
Lept Philomel with scattered hair afflight like one that fled
Had from some fray where slaughter was, and threw the bloody head
Of Itys in his father’s face. And never more was she
Desirous to have had her speech, that able she might be
Her inward joy with worthy words to witness frank and free.
The tyrant with a hideous noise away the table shoves:
And reeres the fiends from Hell. One while with yawning mouth he proves
To vomit up his meat again, and cast his bowels out.
Another while with wringing hands he weeping goes about.
And of his son he terms himself the wretched grave.
The Rape of Lucrece
Shakespeare’s own introductory ‘Argument’ to his narrative poem
Lucius Tarquinius, after he had caused his own father-in-law to be cruelly murdered, and, contrary to the Roman laws and customs, not requiring or staying for the people’s suffrages, had possessed himself of the kingdom, went, accompanied with his sons and other noblemen of Rome, to besiege Ardea. During which siege the principal men of the army meeting one evening at the tent of Sextus Tarquinius, the king’s son, in their discourses after supper every one commended the virtues of his own wife: among whom Collatinus extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucrece. In that pleasant humour they posted to Rome; and intending, by their secret and sudden arrival, to make trial of that which every one had before avouched, only Collatinus finds his wife, though it were late in the night, spinning amongst her maids: the other ladies were all found dancing and revelling, or in several disports. Whereupon the noblemen yielded Collatinus the victory, and his wife the fame. At that time Sextus Tarquinius, being inflamed with Lucrece’ beauty, yet smothering his passions for the present, departed with the rest back to the camp; from whence he shortly after privily withdrew himself, and was, according to his estate, royally entertained and lodged by Lucrece at Collatium. The same night he treacherously stealeth into her chamber, violently ravished her, and early in the morning speedeth away. Lucrece, in this lamentable plight, hastily dispatcheth messengers, one to Rome for her father, another to the camp for Collatine. They came, the one accompanied with Junius Brutus, the other with Publius Valerius; and finding Lucrece attired in mourning habit, demanded the cause of her sorrow. She, first taking an oath of them for her revenge, revealed the actor, and whole manner of his dealing, and withal suddenly stabbed herself. Which done, with one consent they all vowed to root out the whole hated family of the Tarquins; and bearing the dead body to Rome, Brutus acquainted the people with the doer and manner of the vile deed, with a bitter invective against the tyranny of the king: wherewith the people were so moved, that with one consent and a general acclamation the Tarquins were all exiled, and the state government changed from kings to consuls.