Justified Dismemberment

This is a play not often seen but frequently thought of as obscene. CSF's production at Robinson this year (2015) certainly emphasises the schlock/slasher approach that probably reflects the frisson of the genre when it originally became part of the short-lived vogue for blood-lust horror of revenge tragedy in the Elizabethan-Jacobean theatre.

No flesh is spared, no orifice unsacrificed, no back, bowel, throat or thorax unstabbed, no organ left in situ be it tongue or womb, no hand or head left attached and no child left uncooked and fed in a pie to its mother.

The only item that is dismembered, chopped and removed more than human anatomy is the text. This takes the most unkindest cut of all.The director's cleaver brutally excises much of Shakespeare's classical allusion tosh that normally interferes with progress toward the next amputation, rape, fratricide, regicide,cannibalism etc. Perhaps it would have saved much editorial toil by resorting to removing the tongues of all the cast instead of just that of the hapless Lavinia such is the contraction of the original. This textual dismemberment is  justified however because the pace of the first half is cruelly relentless and wonderfully, satisfyingly chop-chop. The danger evident in this necessity results in clunky uneveness of pace, plot and cohesion in places throughout the production. There is a discernible difference between the relentless flow of the first half  and the hiatuses of the second. The expectation having been created, the longueurs of declamations should be dispensed with and the action should proceed apace to the throat cutting, genital stabbing, ferocious throttling and exanguinations that comprise the denouement. The fool(ish) postal pigeon carrier scene could be dispensed with (it wasn't in the original after all) and, even although it's per the original, the wicked Aaron's end is merely described........and speaking of Aaron's end the view afforded from his skimpy loin cloth may benefit from a jock strap if his modesty (if not his neck) is to be preserved. Descriptions of executions are rather passe when elsewhere we are shown the graphic "real (stage) McCoy".....an example being the demise of - the aptly named - Bassi
anus (geddit?) who is dispatched by the fantastically grotesque Tamora twins with what the historians primly refer to as an "humiliation wound". (Marlowe's Edward II never had it so good.)

There is much near (but mainly rear) nudity. Men's bums are predominant and there is more of Bottom in this Titus than the whole of Midsummer Night's Dream. The  groundlings are so spoiled for choice between buttock cleavage and decolletage that (unless wearing bifocals) it becomes difficult to differentiate as to which is on offer at any given moment. Penises abound (or rather are bound) in the bloodied latticework of codpieces resembling Lavinia's removed hand replacements; a rather, er.... nice touch.

There is much wisdom in the nose prosthesis clues which reflect (I assume) the characters' status of the moment e.g. clown, swine, vegetable. These visual spectaculars are a lietmotif of the production in general including costume and sly props and there's a requirement to have one's wits about one to catch them all - and also I suspect a necessity to know the play in depth if you want to get the joke.

This is a play worth seeing. The attempt at recreating the psychotic horror/Grand Guignol humour juxtaposition of Titus Andronicus works well overall but I do hope that it will not prove a genitalia too far for the Puritanical constraints that might be activated in some playgoers , patrons or sponsors. Do NOT take children, spinster aunts or the vicar unless you intend to bake, rape or psychologically break them   But DO give it a whirl because, if nothing else, it's refreshingly different . 8 'pon 10.