I’ve just seen a preview of Who’s Afraid of Titus, Sky Gilbert’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s early play Titus Andronicus. They used the Red Sandcastle Theatre, a space associated with horror through proprietor Eric Woolfe and his Eldritch Theatre cohort.
No offense Eric, but this is scarier than anything seen from Eldritch Theatre certainly since Madhouse Variations: but crazier.
I didn’t realize it was to be immersive. The theatre is tiny, which left us no place to hide, nowhere to flee.
I was intrigued by Sky’s expertise in Shakespeare; he’s a professor after all. Our recent interview probed that nerdy locus, and yes it may be Elizabethan in its tropes or its poetry: but it was as modern as CNN headlines of thugs hurting smaller people. It was like watching the January 6 insurrection up close, and I was not entirely sure I was safe. Oh sure, they wouldn’t want to hurt me, or so says the logical part of my brain.
My viscera felt differently.
While Julie Taymor’s Titus polishes the nastiness of the story, Sky lets it be dirty.
How many ways can you think something can be dirty? I think we covered them all tonight.
I was reminded of Sweeney Todd, not just because TIFT’s production was nominated this week for so many Doras, We were again contemplating the gap between “yum” and “yuck” and in something I think we can genuinely call “immersive”.
Forgive me, is that word being used too much nowadays? I wonder, is the immersive King Tut going to put us into a sarcophagus and bury us alive like Rhadames & Aida? Nobody is advertising this as “immersive” but that’s what I felt.
I like it btw.
I was reminded of King Lear, a play revised sometimes to mitigate its horrors, as indeed Sky might have chosen to do. Did he? Sorry I won’t be a spoiler. But for me the other connection to Lear is how this story has lots of the same sort of disgusting brutality, except Titus doesn’t just get abused. He fights back.
I cried a few times genuinely astonished that my face was wet. But mostly I was really scared. The energy of the performances in the modest arena felt like a balloon inflated to bursting. It’s powerful. The cast bring Stratford level passion to this miniscule theatre.
I chose to sit in the first row because I love intensity. Don’t sit there if you’re easily scared.
But it’s a thrill ride.
Titus features a stellar cast including Brian Smegal (Stratford Festival) as Titus, Ellen-Ray Hennessy (Canada’s Queen of Voice and Animation) as Tamora, Sandy Crawley (movies galore; Green Party candidate) as Marcus, Veronika Hurnik (paula and karl, DNA Theatre/Six Stages) as the Narrator, and Michelle Mohammed (Handmaid’s Tale) as Lavinia…
(correction from Sky: Michelle Mohammed is not playing Lavinia it is Augusta Monet — an understandable mistake. Michelle had to leave the cast because of COVID and there was no program for the preview so understandable you might make that mistake).
The production also features Ray Jacildo, George Alevizos, Max Ackerman and John Humeniuk.
WHO’S AFRAID OF TITUS?
Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus
Adapted & Directed by Sky Gilbert
August 31 to September 3rd, 2022
at the uncanny Red Sandcastle Theatre
922 Queen St East, Toronto
$15 Arts Worker/$25 Advance/$35 Door
6:30PM Doors/7:00 Evening Showtime
2:30PM Doors/3:00 Saturday Matinee
approximately 1 hour, no intermission