Ttius Andronicus is a revenge play: a popular type of theatre in Elizabethan England. The story features executions, murder, chopping off of limbs, rape and the oldest "Yo mamma" joke in the English language. The story focuses on the violence but has numerous subtleties. There are no characters in the story only motivated by revenge, but there is also pride, lust, family and power behind characters' motivations.
Overall though it is an uneven work, as the work is not considered to have been done purely by Shakespeare. There are often mundane parts to the play, but it builds up to the great Shakespearean language that we love.
Perhaps the main appeal is that it is that sort of Shakespearean play that scholars like to dismiss. While violent, it can also be played to some extent for laughs.
The goal of the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble is to engage a variety of communities with the plays of Shakespeare. Most notable is their work in prisons around Queensland. Productions feature season actors and young talented students.
So the Audience sits on the stage with most of the action happening right there in front you in a very intimate way. This makes the violence even more shocking because you are right there within arms reach of the actors.
The production is pretty simple and clever. I don't think it is as good as other productions that I have seen by the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble, but the simplicity of the production allows the actors talents to shine through.
However they do use the unusual theatre space quite well. As the audience is on the stage, they also use the amphitheatre itself for certain scenes, moving the setting from the intimate to the expansive where appropriate.
In particular Rob Pensalfini as Titus Andronicus carries the play and the moral message. His performance goes way beyond the words to create an emotional transformation in the character.
Silvan Rus is another notable cast member with his performance of Aaron, whose manipulations spur the various characters on to acts of revenge but who is ultimately a tragic victim of his own manipulations.
The young cast also do admirably in various roles in the play. It is that combination of experienced and younger actors that brings freshness to Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble's plays.
Overall a good production of Shakespeare's bloodiest and most violent play. Worth the $30 whether you are a fan of theatre or just curious about seeing Shakespeare up close and personal.