Greenwich Theatre, London
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Yaz Al-Shaater
Smooth Faced Gentlemen’s all female Titus Andronicus is a deftly trimmed take on Shakespeare’s most bloody tragedy. Amidst some cracking performances, a company of 8 clad in white blouses and black trousers and performing on a stark white set, deploy litres of red paint to depict the story’s carnage.
The base motives of the play: lust, betrayal and parental love are all preserved in a text that has been finely chopped to just 80 minutes plus interval. The acting is a delight, with imaginative voice work chanted in from the wings that only adds to the Roman – Gothic chamber of horrors unfolding on stage. The moments of comedy are well defined and with paintbrushes (and occasionally rollers) replacing the conventional ironmongery of weapons, the irony and horror of the piece are cleverly preserved.
The cast are all strong, led by an imposing Ariane Barnes in the title role. Stand out performances amongst a talented troupe are Anita-Joy Uwajeh’s Aaron who frequently has the audience in the palm of her hand as she effortlessly blends evil with comedy. As Tamora, Olivia Bromley exudes an infernal cocktail of defiant maternal love, alongside a sickening contempt for Lavinia’s vulnerable womanhood as well as a burning sexuality.
Four of the cast swap between various roles and whilst their transitions are slick, they add a layer of complexity that may well confuse a newcomer. Memorable from the role-changers is Ashlea Kaye who manages the challenge of portraying Demetrius’ evil youth whilst also capturing Marcus’ warm avuncular balm.
Only here for four days before a return to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, Yaz Al-Shaater directs this triumphant truncation assuredly. This gender bending production takes a little getting used to and Titus novices would do well to peruse a pre-show synopsis, whilst those familiar with the fable should revel in this Elizabethan prequel to Come Dine With Me. With lashings of red sauce, the Smooth Faced Gents’ Titus Andronicus makes for some of the most refreshingly accessible Shakespeare in town.
Plays until 2nd May – Then at the Edinburgh Fringe