Titus Andronicus

Wednesday 21st to Saturday 24th April 2004 (5 performances)

Joseph Rowntree Theatre 

Charles Hutchinson in the The Yorkshire Evening Press wrote:


SHORT of staging Titus Andronicus: The Musical with Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust as its signature tune, it would be impossible to make the bloody hell of Shakespeare’s most violent play a box-office draw at Joseph Rowntree Theatre.

The prospect of seeing a play about rape, murder, dismemberment and pie-eating cannibalism had kept the masses at home, chomping on a diet of lighter, less fattening horrors, otherwise known as British soap opera. It takes a strong stomach to survive Titus Andronicus intact, but no more so than a night out at a Greek tragedy or, more topically, as the latest Tarantino bloodbath, Kill Bill Vol 2.

The comparison with Tarantino is apt. Titus Andronicus was written by Renaissance dramatist Will Shakespeare in his bravura days. He had already knocked out a handful of history plays and comedies and, as he turned 30 with his chief rival Christopher Marlowe newly dead, he took the chance to out do the new pretenders with a show of video nasty excess.

Titus Andronicus was his Reservoir Dogs , the satire of the dead-fly speech his equivalent of Tarantino’s ‘’dogs” dissecting Madonna’s merits.

Yet Titus Andronicus is no Alice Cooper or Ozzy Osbourne shock show, its expressions of grief are the stuff of classical Greek drama and Paul Toy’s icily discharged production seeks to balance those moments of pained stillness with an inexorable crunch of revenging tragedy.

Incense and candlelight and Jude Brereton’s Eastern percussion playing set the scene for Toy’s transfer of the play from Rome to the Far East “another highly sophisticated, decadent and cruel empire menaced on its borders by warring tribes: a society with a strict judicial system that involves executions and mutilations, strong ritual and ceremonial traditions and a culture of heightened poetic speech,” as his programme notes expound.

His scholarly reasoning reads well and it looks well on John Sharpe’s Chinese set design, complemented by the colour coded costume designs of Beverley Chapman. Toy’s judicious editing keeps the running time to two-and-a-half hours, and the relentless progression of bloody deeds culminates in the forensic detail of the neck-slashing execution of Demetrius (Oliver Bevan) and Chiron (Alex Ball), hung upside down like pigs in an abattoir.

As with the way with community productions, the standard of acting is erratic and, in truth, this most difficult of plays overstretches the company although David Parkinson’s righteous Titus Andronicus and Richard Easterbrook’s wise owl Marcus Andronicus cut the mustard.

Titus Andronicus lain to rest, York Shakespeare Project will have more fun and surely bigger houses for Chris Rawson’s Love’s Labours Lost at the Friargate Theatre in December.

Note: The audiences picked up after the opening night.

See also: The British Theatre Guide review by Peter Lathan.



Saturninus (eldest son and successor to the emperor) Tim Holman
Bassianus (younger brother of Saturninus) Mike Bennett
Titus Andronicus (Roman general who defeated Goths) David Parkinson
Marcus Andronicus (Tribune and brother of Titus) Richard Easterbrook
Lucius (eldest son of Titus) Dermot Hill
Quintus (son of Titus) John Hasselgreen
Martius (son of Titus) Alan Flower
Mutius (youngest son of Titus) John Crosby
Lavinia (daughter of Titus) Beverley Chapman
Young Lucius (son of Lucius) Gillian Bayes
Publius (son of Marcus) Richard Stell
Caius (kinsmen of Andronici) / Tribune Matthew Platt
Valentine (kinsmen of Andronici) / A Captain Ian Johnston
Aemillius (Tribune) Alan Lyons
Nurse Val Parker
Clown Kit Bird
Tamora (Queen of Goths) Judith Ireland
Demitrius (son of Tamora) Oliver Bevan
Chiron (son of Tamora) Alex Ball
Alarbus (son of Tamora) Richard Stell
Aaron ( a Moor and Tamora’s lover) John Sharpe
1st Goth Christine West
2nd Goth Phyllis Carson Smith
3rd Goth Julia Atkinson
Other Romans and Goths: Louise Moody, Caroline Leach, Val Parker, Alan Booty, Raymond Baggaley, Maria Hamblet, Julia Atkinson, Kit Bird, John Hasselgreen, Alan Flower, Mike Bennett, John Crosby

Production and Backstage

Director Paul Toy
Set Design/Stage Construction John Sharpe
Stage Manager Debbie Bone
Deputy Stage Manager Maria Hamblet
SetBuilding Kit Bird, Malcolm Law, John Sharpe, Raymond Baggaley, Oliver Bevan, Alex Ball, Maria Hamblet
Set Painting Beverley Chapman, Richard Easterbrook
Properties Jeremy Muldowney
Lighting Marc Lawrence
Music Jude Brereton
Costume design Beverley Chapman
Wardrobe Assistant Helen Mitchell
Costume Makers Mary-Ann Dearlove, Sheilia Shouksmith, Helen Bower, Katrina Beale
Make Up Meida; Make-up at YorkCollege
Masks Anna Kesteven
Programme Alan Lyons
Front of House Jennifer Aitken, Ian Bithell, Ali Borthwick,
Chris Rawson, Barbara Miller,
and members of YSP