Friday Film Focus: Titus Andronicus by Royal Shakespeare Company

Last Sunday, I checked out the cinema broadcast of the recent production of Titus Andronicus by the Royal Shakespeare Company. But this is going to be more than a mere review. It’s gonna be a rant, as well (but more on that later)…

The video capture as always is solid, a wonderful mix of cinematic camera angles and editing, along with a never-ceasing sense that this was a stage production.

The performances were very good. David Troughton makes for a great Titus–aging, tired, frustrated, distract, and unrelenting. Nia Gwynne’s Tamora is a work of great balance; it’s a tough character–a villainess, yet still justifiably so. And both Hannah Morrish and Stefan Adegbola are fine as Lavinia and Aaron, respectively.

The modern setting works for the most part. Unlike many “modern” productions, this one actually does a fine job of integrating handguns into the mix with knives (Titus’ killing of Mutius and Saturninus’ of Titus are great examples). The pre-show featurette had director Blanche McIntyre discussing how she sees the play set in Rome, but with the economic/political chaos being more like contemporary Britain, and a quickness to violence from the United States; and I’ll buy that…not that I necessarily saw that in the show that followed. She also discussed the balance needed between the horror, the comedy, and the pathos.

And while I agree, I’m not sure that was accomplished here, either.

Yes. There are laughs for the “I have done thy mother” gag. And the Andronici selfie in the opening scene was … cute, I suppose. But the final scene entrance of Titus in a chef’s hat is becoming, if you’ll pardon the pun, OLD hat–hackneyed. Otherwise, I’m not sure I caught many laughs.

The violence was intense (especially a bit of sleight of hand–pun again totally intended–during the scene where Titus loses his) and–in the case of Marcus discovering the raped Lavinia and having to pull up her panties–especially rending.

But it just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Maybe it was the–for me–overly serious tone. Or maybe it was the use of “ghosts” in the latter half of the play– Alarbus’ bloody corpse visits Tamora, as do the ghosts of Quintus and Martius to Titus…OK, I get it…the murdered of the past never leave the minds of the survivors, spurring even more revenge and violence. But to have the dead Andronici brothers help in the execution of Chiron and Demetrius really didn’t work for me, as did (not) the literal last-second [SPOILER ALERT] execution of Lucius by Alarbus’ ghost.

Or maybe it wasn’t all the film/production’s fault.

And we begin the rant.

The film was shown at the AMC Sunset 5 theater in West Hollywood. This was the first show of the day, so I wasn’t expecting the full menu to be available. Nachos or pizza, of course, were non-starters. But when a sign says, “Now Serving,” the assumption is that those items are available. Nope. If I wanted to wait 10 minutes, then maybe–but of course, the show started in 5. Hmmm, Titus or hot dog? Never mind. So I return at intermission. “We just sold the last one.” Seriously? There couldn’t have been more than 20 people in the screening. Seriously. AMC Sunset 5…never again.

Please, RSC: find other venues in southern California.

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