TITUS: Shakespeare On Acid

Titus CupcakeRevenge is a dish best served cold.  Unless it is sixteenth century Rome, to which it would be best served freshly baked.

New theatre company Fractious Tash presents a new take on Shakespeare’s most violent work and it is both a gripping and terrifying experience.  Dark and gritty with a generous serving of bloodshed, mutilation and even cannibalism, this intense adaptation is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Titus tells the story of Roman army general Titus Andronicus and how he finds himself in a twisted, vicious cycle of revenge and murder with Tamora, the Queen of the Goths.  Under the masterful direction of Benjamin Henson, this five hundred year old macabre tragedy gets a contemporary makeover with brilliant use of pop culture, tongue-in-cheek creative choices and a hauntingly superb atmospheric set.

In contrast the dialogue is still delivered in the authentic Shakespearean style which does take a while to get used to initially but the story is easy enough to sink your teeth in to which is a credit to the well crafted script and also the exceptional performances by the all-male cast.  All recent graduates from Unitec, these actors are skilled performers, each embodying their characters effortlessly with raw authenticity and great conviction.

Titus

Paul Lewis is well cast as the titular character, brilliantly conveying Titus’ unraveling insanity whilst the villainous Tamora is performed with staggering credibility by Cole Jenkins.  I also found Eli Mathewson’s portrayal of the ill-fated Lavinia particularly stirring.  The actors as a collective are a well-oiled machine, perfectly complementing one another and feeding off each others’ energy.

Stylistically, this play is a visual treat – kudos to the creative team for an outstanding effort.  The lighting and chilling sound design work well in further enhancing the spooky-looking set and these elements all come together as one to create a genuinely scary and unsettling atmosphere.

Titus is a slick and impressive production with a stellar cast and is really Shakespeare as you have never seen before.  It is brutal and shocking, visually arresting and emotionally charged – a truly immersive and visceral theatrical experience.

The Whimsical Banana rates Titus: 5/5 bananas! 

Titus is at the Loft at Q until June 8th – click here for tickets.

One By One: A Love Story Without Words

One By OneThey say actions speak louder than words.  This is exercised to the fullest effect in One By One, a quirky and charming silent show directed by Pedro Ilgenfritz that takes place in a world where words do not yet exist.  Bonnie and Marty’s paths cross in a fortuitous encounter at a park and from that moment on their lives are changed forever.

Katie Burson and Cole Jenkins draw us in and take us along on this adventure of tragi-comic proportions where in the absence of words, exaggeration is key.  Expect lots of comical wide-eyed facial expressions, melodramatic jaunty marches up and down the stage and madcap shenanigans of the slapstick kind.  Burson and Jenkins do all of this effortlessly and with a childlike innocence that perfectly complements and serves the narrative brilliantly.

The other integral element of the show which I thought was executed extremely well was the use of live music to set the pace and tone of each scene.  Jews Brothers band musicians John Ellis and Nigel Gavin are a well-oiled machine – they fittingly employ an eclectic mix of score and sounds throughout this silent love story which I felt really added a great rhythmic pulse to the performance.  Sometimes they don’t get it quite right though and consequently they are directed by the two characters themselves which I thought was a nice touch.

Bonnie and Marty’s breaking of the Fourth Wall doesn’t stop there.  Just as they have invited us in to this playful and musical world of gestures and mime similarly they just as readily jump into ours.  Personal space may be invaded and if you’re lucky enough, you may even get to participate too.

The stage appears stark and bare with only three pieces of furniture and a set of vertical “ribbons” that cross each other to form a skeletal wall.  This inconspicuous minimalist set created by Rachel Walker and though modest is the perfect “blank canvas” for the action that unfolds.

Unfortunately One By One is only running for a very short season – there are only two more opportunities to catch this fun and whimsical homage to silent film and I strongly recommend that you do!  You will be thoroughly entertained and more importantly you will be convinced that a world could exist without spoken word.

For tickets and more information, click here.

The Whimsical Banana rates One By One: 4/5 bananas!

One By One is a production funded by LAB Theatre and is presented as part of the Auckland Fringe.

Auckland Fringe

This review is also featured on Keeping Up With NZ.