Theatre R&R // Titus

“O, why should nature build so foul a den, Unless the gods delight in tragedies?”

Titus Andronicus isn’t a play I had ever read or seen before, but I turned up to the dear old Bard’s Yard on Grey’s Ave anticipating a bit of bloody mayhem between the Roman Empire and the Goths. I realise now I may have gone in a little too bucolic and light-hearted about it all.

How bloody can it really be?

What started as a balmy summer evening, full of pleasant chatter and a sip or two of wine, flipped 180 degrees in the flash of a dagger to Titus, a stripped-down explosion of the bard’s darkest play by local theatre company Fractious Tash who really blew it out of the water on opening night.

While a gentle Auckland breeze was whispering around the napes of our necks and tenderly nudging the pretty rows of lights adorning the glorious Pop-up Globe on my country lane of a life, the seven-lane motorway that was taking shape in front of us was non-stop wolf-pack apocolypse; a rampant whirlwind of in-your-face tragedy, violence and revenge.

Lest you think it all grief and grimness, fear not, there were gut-achingly awesome laughs, too; when things got dark, the laughter was loud, hard and heartfelt. The actors looped and twisted around ‘real life’ so seamlessly, playing with the audience and welcoming the city in too, with its sirens, revving engines, and French ladies taking phone calls. Everything seemed so unique; and while life is just that, zillions of unique moments, most don’t feel quite as magical or impossibly finite.

I lost sight completely of how plays were originally performed (Titus Andronicus over four hundred years ago), raw and exposed under the clouds, so this was an eye-opener and a thrill to be part of. The light changed as the play went on, and with it everyone’s energy.

Since the lights were dimmed in theatres, clearly defining our roles and expectations, our space and place in whatever world we’re observing, perhaps we’ve lost touch with the power that comes from really being part of a story.

There are limited opportunities to bear witness and be part of Titus unashamedly turning its juicy and disturbing rump to the sky, so I plead thee all, shake a leg and make the most of it while you can.

words by Sue Lewis

Titus is on at the Pop-up Globe 13–20 March, Bard’s Yard, 38 Greys Avenue, Auckland