The buzz has predictably focussed on the blood and the guts in the Grads’ new production of Titus Andronicus, which is at the Assembly Roxy to Saturday this week.
So much so, that the guest of Æ’s reviewer for the show made sure they wore dark colours – just in case of stage blood splatter.
Of course, the Grads themselves have pushed the gross side of the production with a dirty dozen list of its macabre attributes, ranging from your common or garden infanticide, decapitation, rape and torture to rather more esoteric operations such as excanguination and glossectomy. And a half-dozen more.
Not to mention counting down to opening night by snipping the digits off increasingly bloodied hands. One digit a day until just two bloody stumps were left on opening night.
But there is another side to the show, which sees the Grads team up with the RSC Open Stages project, meaning that this is produced with mentoring support from Dundee Rep – who, quite coincidentally, have just staged their own professional production of Titus Andronicus.
Like the Rep, the Grads have brought the play into a modern realm. But where the Rep moved Shakespeare’s Rome into the kitchen of a posh restaurant – called Rome – the Grads have changed countries all together.
Director David Grimes has set his Titus in contemporary Iraq, allowing him to bring contemporary atrocities into sharp focus. Time and place change, but the futility of revenge remains.
the cycle of killing
The basic plot revolves round Titus, a general who returns home from fighting the Goths with their queen Tamora and her three sons as hostages. Killing the eldest in revenge for the deaths of his own sons during the long campaign, Titus fuels the cycle of killing as Tamora and her remaining sons swear vengeance.
Rhiannon King (Tamora). Photo Janie Carter.
This is the second time that the Grads has taken part in the RSC open stage project, with their productions of Richard III in 2012 and Hamlet in 2011, both being part of it.
The way the project has helped form the production have moved on, according to David Grimes, who has taken part in both RSC Open Stages projects.
Grimes told Æ: “The biggest difference between the two has been the shift from the sharing of theoretical best practice to a much more hands-on practical mentorship.
“Our production has been mentored by Dundee Rep and director Joe Douglas, specifically. Joe has been involved from script edit through the finalisation of the project.
“Throughout our rehearsal period, Joe has always treated myself, our cast and crew as equals and as collaborators. He has been generous with time and expertise to a fault. Everyone involved in the project has seen growth and benefit from this collaboration.
“Hopefully, we will be able to continue the dialogue and that the RSC will again see the value in continuing the Open Stages platform.”
Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU
Wednesday 6 – Saturday 9 May 2015.
Details and tickets from the Grads website: www.egtg.co.uk