REVIEW: The RSC's Titus Andronicus is harrowing - and hilarious
It’s a notoriously tricky play to get right. There’s tragedy upon tragedy, death upon death, blood and more blood. How then to stop it tipping over into comical absurdity?Blanche McIntyre’s production adopts a novel and highly effective approach to this conundrum. In foregrounding the comedy from the outset, we are spared any uneasy laughter. No, the laughter here is very easy indeed - which just makes the horror all the more horrifying.The play, set in Rome, is here given a sharply contemporary look, with tracksuits, hoodies and mobile phones. There are allusions to the 2011 riots and anti-capitalist protests. That none of this jars or feels forced is a tribute to the relaxed conviction of the cast and the unrelenting inventiveness of the direction. It’s a production brimming with ideas but never swamped by them. But key to its success is David Troughton. His Titus brings an emotional gravity to a play that in lesser hands can be an empty gorefest. And the sight of his daughter Lavinia (Hannah Morrish) in the aftermath of her rape and mutilation is truly horrifying; revenge seems an entirely apt response. Here, that means killing the rapists, putting their remains in a pie and feeding it to their mother. Revenge, we learn, is a dish best served with a side salad. It’s a little touch that sums up this stormingly impressive show.
* Titus Andronicus runs until September 2. Call 01789 403493 to book.