A Night of Severed Limbs: A Dark and Thrilling New Production Is Shakespeare for the Post-Tarantino Age

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Titus Andronicus

Shakespeare's Globe, London SE1

For this production of the gory shocker from Shakespeare, the director Lucy Bailey and designer William Dudley have used a black awning to block the sky from the Globe, a theatre that depends largely on natural light. The stage is swathed in black, while clouds of incense and dry ice obscure the atmosphere, and the actors are clad in monochrome tones: white, brown and royal purple. This serves to make the gouts of blood that course through the production stand out all the better. Here is a dark, gloomy Titus, literally dripping in the red stuff.

Bailey has relished the challenge of the Globe and has gone for theatre in the round, in the widest possible term. Our senses are bewitched throughout the grisly goings-on, by the smell of burning incense, the jangling sound of Django Bates's disturbing music, and the spectacular visuals ranging from torrential cascades of spinning confetti to a boar hunt through the centre of the auditorium. This is total theatre, and the auditorium is used to stunning effect.

The production makes the most of the interactive nature of the Globe, where the audience includes 200 "groundlings" who stand around its thrust stage into the centre of the hall. Here, they are cast as members of the Roman public; they are pushed and pulled, at one point surrounding the despotic Saturninus (a menacing Patrick Moy) as he proclaims his right to inherit the Republic, then crowding around the evil Aaron (Shaun Parkes) as he offers up his life for his infant son. The play is part of a series that the Globe's new artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, has called "The Edges of Rome", and by placing the audience at the heart of the action, Bailey evokes the chaos of a leaderless republic.

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Tamora, Queen of the Goths (Geraldine Alexander), is the ruthless heart of this Titus. Arriving as a prisoner bound in chains, she metamorphoses into an empress sashaying across the stage in a pair of giant cork wedges and a pencil-slim dress--menacingly sexy, and pitiless with it. Her mind is focused with the resolve of someone who understands that the only way to get true revenge is, literally, to sleep with the enemy. She preens her lascivious, bestial sons like a lioness, and has no time for the vulnerable. …