Titus Andronicus @ Bedlam Theatre
Typical. You wait years for someone to bring Titus Andronicus to the Fringe then all of a sudden there are three of them, each offering a different spin on Shakespeare's bloody tale of treachery and revenge in the Roman Empire. An all-female production joins the Bedlam Theatre’s typically eclectic and refreshing 2013 Fringe festival line-up, once again cementing the venue’s reputation as one of the true gems of the Fringe. The UK’s only all-female Shakespeare company, Smooth Faced Gentlemen, has taken one of the Bard’s most testosterone-fuelled tragedies and brought it to life with vivid brushstrokes.
That’s no metaphor: the blood is literally painted on, with the ramshackle building site-style set and crisp matching shirts of the cast acting as the canvas for the bloody war between Roman General Titus and Tamara, Queen of the Goths. Decorating tools may stand in for weapons but the effect is no less brutal, particularly during the infamous attack and rape of Lavinia (kudos to the Gentlemen for not actually showing the rape. The scene remains devastating but never gratuitous or titillating).
The real strength of this universally strong ensemble lies in their masterful command of the language, finding the nuances and oft-forgotten humour within. Titus Andronicus may be a tragedy but it’s a bleakly funny one, and the laughs come naturally, particularly when the cast are playing around with the characters’ cocky displays of masculinity.
The inclusion of a cappella-style sound effects and mid-scene singing feels unnecessary, but otherwise there is little to fault in this production. Funny, ferocious, creative, brilliantly performed and unflinchingly bloody, the Smooth Faced Gentlemen have set the bar high for the Titus team this Fringe. [Kayleigh Donaldson]