02/11/2011 at 12:51 pm 2 comments

Presented by Cry Havoc, at ATYP Under The Wharf
October 2011

When Antonin Artaud wrote about a Theatre of Cruelty, what he had in mind was the cruelty of letting an audience in on a truth about themselves they did not necessarily want to know. Like telling someone their flies are undone, or they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe, or they have had too much to drink; it’s cruel, but necessary. For a greater good. He doesn’t mean the cruelty of barbarism, the unnecessary acts of evil; like (spoiling the plot of a good story, or) chopping off somebody’s hand. This is more Theatre of Brutality, in all its blood-drinking, bone-snapping, gullet-wrenching Coliseum tradition. Even so, one feels a sense of Artaudian cruauté permeating this Shakespearean splatterfest, for no matter how wild the ride becomes there are revelations – other than the Apocalyptic kind – about the residence of the human soul in places nobody wants to shine light on.

Not that the loathsome crimes depicted are too far removed from similar plotlines cued up each week on episodes of SVU or CSI: Miami – only here, instead of the slick jump cuts the horrors of sexual violence are shown in the kind of extreme forensic detail only theatre can provide. No wonder people want to look away. No wonder they walk out. Because it is a cruel trick to let someone think they are coming to watch Shakespeare; only to shatter that illusion by giving up a grisly sequence of ritualistic assaults and murders strung together by the odd bit of iambic pentameter. But then that’s what Elizabethan theatre was for the most part; bloody revenge tragedies. In 16C though, one can imagine groundlings cheering with every hacked limb, their voices outstripping the finer points of any poetry the Bard may have thought to add into varied dialogues on moral justice (for example). No groundlings at this venue. Certainly no-one cheering the rape of Lavinia. “This is his worst play” someone quipped behind me at half-time. Of course one of those people had also been chattering quietly throughout Act I so one quietly wanted to stab them in the eyeball. Revenge Tragedy. The only difference is you.

What would Artaud make of Cry Havoc’s Titus Andronicus, one wonders, with their emblazoned dedication to the canon; a play never taught as a masterpiece, but embracing the visceral image theatre, a tradition of truth-telling at the core of performance that demands nearly impossible feats from the cast. None will know, for this is the twenty-first century Titus – the French theorist’s disdain for the classics is of no importance to a 2011 audience, is it? How much of the audience just wants blood for blood? I know I did.

There lies the true horror of this play. That we are creatures of malice, however intended. Revenge does not need to descend into madness to succeed, it is not blind, it feeds on what is wrong, the kind of pure and simple fact that something is awry. Sit in the audience and dare to feel otherwise. I couldn’t. Look. Away.

Titus Andronicus, by William Shakespeare; playing at ATYP ‘Under the Wharf’. Directed by Kate Revz, featuring Helmut Bakaitis, Gabriel Fancourt, Sam Haft, Sean Hawkins, Drew Livingstone, Megan O’Connell, Suzanne Pereira, Berynn Schwerdt, Demetrios Sirilas, Tom Stokes, Anthony Taufa, Aaron Tsindos and Eloise Winestock. Playing until November 5th.

Entry filed under: Inside Theatre REVIEWS, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .


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VICTOR SANCZ vassanc [AT] gmail.com

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