Titus Andronicus (was: RE: Favourite books)

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at netvision.net.il
Sun Dec 12 03:23:31 EST 2004

Otter wrote:
>Hmmm.  Well, I don't see why people don't do it as a black comedy
>nowadays.  It's very hard to read with a straight face, and the only
>production I've seen cut the parts that made me laugh when I was
>reading it.
>[I'm sure somebody _has_ done it as a black comedty.  I just
  haven't seen it.]

I'm still searching for the begining of this thread. But for what it's
worth, I've seen two production of "Titus Andronicus" (not including the
Reduced Shakespeare Company's cooking show), and both were at least partly
staged as black comedies. One was at the Stratford, Ontario Shakespeare
festival when I was 14: all I remember was that it was done in Japanese
Samurai costume, and that it was done back to back with "A Comedy of
Errors". "The Comedy of Errors" was the funniest production of this play
I've ever seen, the set looked like Versailles with whipped cream on top,
and there was one gag "mistaken" enterance of a Titus Andronicus Samurai
warrior onto the set at an inopportune moment; I remember wondering if the
whole point of staging Titus Andronicus was to set up for that one, very
funny gag in Comedy of Errors.

The second production of TA that I saw was a student production at Harvard,
which was BRILLIANT. It was directed by a guy who had actually graduated the
year before and was still hanging around the campus doing student theatre
because he was so good at it (and he was building up experience to apply for
graduate school directing programs, which are notoriously selective). I
don't remember much except that one scene was hysterically slapstick,
tossing around a black baby doll (which was supposed to be a real baby in
the play) as lightly as though it were a football, while the mother who was
an extremely tall, extremely beautiful Amazon of a black actress mourned,
and the whole scene managed to be shocking on several levels and
sidesplittingly funny and tragic at the same time. On the whole, that one
production of Titus Andronicus was better than most of the student
Shakespeare I saw during my two years in the States. It was all due to the
genius of the director, Jose Zayas - the same guy who that same year staged
an Anime-inspired production of "The Mikado" (imagine "Three Little Maids
from School" sung by actresses wearing bright blue and pink wigs,
occasionally bending over to give the audience a peek of the panties under
their school uniforms...)

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