80s spin on Titus Andronicus reconciles old and new

Zoe Ford's interpretation takes terrace culture to centre stage. Picture: Contributed
Zoe Ford's interpretation takes terrace culture to centre stage. Picture: Contributed
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IT IS the hard-hitting retelling of a Shakespeare classic which promises to shock and educate in equal measure.

Titus Andronicus is being touted as one to watch this Festival as Roman warriors are replaced with far-right extremist thugs in a drama which producers have warned contains stark violence and scenes of a sexual nature.

The theatre play is set in the 1980s and has echoes of This is England, but director Zoe Ford said that the recent murder of a young soldier in Woolwich and rise of the English Defence League has made the show as timely as ever.

Hiraeth Artistic Productions said that parts of the 75-minute production do not make for easy viewing, but that it is hoped that one of the lesser-known Shakespeare plays will be brought to many audiences for the first time.

“We have set Titus in the 1980s and we had a lot of influences from the fantastic This is England by Shane Meadows, but it is just as timely given the recent events in Woolwich and the rise of the EDL”, Ms Ford, 27, from Glasgow, told The Scotsman.

“Titus is a great storytelling device. It is often seen as Shakespeare’s worst play but I think it is his finest.”

Dressed in steel toecap boots, white shirts and red braces, and sporting tattoos, Titus leads a terrifying London street gang.

Baseball bats and flick knives replace swords and daggers and the brotherhood among soldiers becomes that found on the tough football terraces of the 1980s.

Ms Ford said that the cast have worked to open up the play to modern audiences.

“We have tried to develop the play to make it accessible. The play remains in Shakespearean language but the Received Pronunciation has been replaced with Cockney and Irish accents and we have changed the iambic pentameter.”

Reviewers warn the central scene in the play, the rape and mutilation of Lavinia, is brutal and unnerving.

“Titus is shocking at times but we’ve found the audience are very receptive to the play and we’ve had an great response”, Ms Ford said.