Bell Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus at the Sydney Opera House
21 children left dead on the battleground, Titus returns home to Rome with Queen of the Goths, Tamora, and her three sons as prisoners of war. Titus Andronicus is Shakespeare’s terrifying tale of two families locked in a violent cycle of chaos and bloody vengeance.
A confronting and gory revenge tragedy, Titus Andronicus was the smash hit of Shakespeare’s early career.
Rosie spoke with performer Grace Truman about the challenges of bringing this work to the stage and how changing the role of Titus to a woman shifts the central narrative. Read the full interview below:
This is the first time that Bell Shakespeare has programmed Titus Andronicus. Why do you think it was the right time to bring this work to the stage?
When you look at the global political climate today you see a range of forums and perspectives that are becoming more vocal than ever before and spreading messages of hate and encouraging violence towards minorities. Titus tackles the themes of violence and hate and revenge and how they lead to an all consuming vicious cycle, so I think it has a lot of relevance for today’s audience.
Titus Andronicus is widely known as Shakespeare’s darkest, most violent and most confronting play. What can audiences expect from a production so provocative?
The audience can expect to be “on edge”, to be taken on a real roller-coaster ride of emotions, challenged, confronted and ultimately provoked.
What has the rehearsal process been like working on such an experimental and gory work? Have there been any challenges so far?
The rehearsal process has been collaborative, open, creative, we have gone through many phases with most scenes and we have done a lot of physical improvisation work, which was a very new experience for me.
Like most rehearsal processes there are different stages. At some point there is questioning of yourself, where you fit in? Also this is an incredibly difficult play to stage for many reasons, so working though that had its challenges, but was also very rewarding.
This production of Titus Andronicus will be performed with Jane Montgomery Griffiths as Titus, offering a new take on the story with a female in the lead role. How does changing the role of Titus Andronicus to a female role change Shakespeare’s story?
There is a strong focus on motherhood and the female body, however in many ways Jane’s commanding performance transcends the gender question. The audience will perceive the play in a new light, as they watch the relationships between mothers/daughters, mothers/sons, the figure of the mother and her strength.
How does Titus Andronicus examine the cycle of revenge and the most vile parts of humanity? What do you hope to achieve with this work?
It exposes the brutal, hideous behaviours of humanity and it shows how parents influence their children. In this production there is a banality to the cruelty. The production hopes to show the futility of violence, and expose the unsettling relationship between parents and their children. The production will bring Titus’ story to a modern audience.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
All About Eve on the West End
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Red Square Moscow
Dream show to perform in?
My Fair Lady
Plays or musicals?
Depends on the show
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
Food – cooking and eating
What’s next for you after this show?
My Mum and I have just finished writing 6 new episodes of our web series, “amazing Grace”, so we are gearing up to shoot those, and of course back to school.
Titus Andronicus opens at the Sydney Opera House on August 30, 2019. You can get your tickets here.