Lockdown reviews: The Shows Must Go Online – Titus Andronicus

Rob Myles has a project running at the moment to mount each one of Shakespeare’s plays with just a few days rehearsal before a live stream via Zoom. This week it is Titus Andronicus, which I opted to watch via its recording on YouTube on 23 April, the Bard’s birthday.

Directing and planning the shows alongside producer partner Sarah Peachey, Myles has taken up a formidable challenge to marshall a large cast of actors in diverse locations, in real-time: a challenge for any play but especially for this goriest, most violent, most complicated of plots.

Screencap from Titus Andronicus

Being live, there are always technical issues to deal with: we lost our Titus briefly (confessing later in the Q&A that he forgot to switch his microphone on) and saw the swing taking on one of his speeches – hooray and well done – but otherwise this was slickly presented with only slight volume issues between some of the participants.

I really appreciated three things about this stream. First, an introductory summary of the play by Tony Pisculli (it’s been a while since I read it). Second, the presentation of all actors in a scene on screen at the same time. Third, the props – severed tongues, hands and heads are just the start, with a bloody apocalypse via guns seeming a fair finale in these anxious, pent-up times.

With a quick turnaround on each play – cast each Friday with rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday before Wednesday broadcast – this really is lockdown drama flying by the seat of its pants. It is a new, brave form of live theatre for troubled times, and it is superb viewing.

It seems odd not to applaud all the actors individually, but I especially enjoyed the performances of Mark Holden (Aaron), Tricia Mancuso Parks (Tamora), Tiffany Abercrombie (Lavinia), and Julia Walker Wyson (Marcus Andronicus). All brought something different to their complex characters, and I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

I also enjoyed seeing an unusual take on the usual slavering and satistic Titus himself; in Michael Bertenshaw was more kindly dictator, which made his quest to avenge his daughter’s rape and mutilation all the sharper.

Screencap from Titus Andronicus

Follow #ShowMustGoOnline and #ConnectedAndCreative on Twiiter to engage with the project. You can find Titus Andronicus and previous plays Two Gentlemen of Verona, Taming of the Shrew, all three parts of Henry VI on Rob Myles YouTube channel.

Next week’s play will be Richard III.