By Veronika Kallus
How can you portray 14 elaborate murders, 6 severed body parts and a rape on stage, believably?
In the program write up of Deadly Theatre Productions’ Titus Andronicus it says the play is re-imagined as a graphic novel. Yes, that makes sense, one would think, just draw it. Then you watch it. And it all happens on stage, not with a pen. And you believe it really does.
Aspects of a graphic novel are there – but only to provide the poignant backdrop of post-communist Russia. The Kremlin, a snowy forest. No explicit explanation of who is meant to be who in the Russian connection, yet it seems to work, to make sense. Power struggles, corruption and revenge in ancient Rome and modern day Moscow might be different in method but similar in vision – or is it the other way round?
As far as it can be, this adaption of Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s most violent play, is beautiful. Red on white on black. Titus’ portrayal leaves a remaining impression, as do Tamora’s and Aaron’s. Aaron simply breathes evil, just as much as Tamora thirsts for sly revenge, and Titus internalises the unbroken image of a father’s and loyal statesman’s broken heart. He resorts to laughter when ‘he’s got no more tears left’ – a scene that is incredibly hard to play believably. Ben Blackburn as Titus does it admirably.
Maybe a bit demanding in places for an extended lunch break – but the fact that images of this performance will stay in one’s head for days just illustrates the quality of this show.