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Mad Duck Equity Co-op

Titus Andronicus
By William Shakespeare

Director Jack Paterson Fight choreography Braun McAsh, Sebastien de Castell Composer/ Sound design Jeff Timoschuk Set Al Frisk Lighting Darren Boquist Costume Moira Fentum Stage Manager Bloodworks Kirsti Mikoda

Dates 3 - 18 March 2006 Venue Jericho Arts Centre
Reviewer Jane Penistan

Una Memisevic as Young Lucius

Mad Duck’s Titus Andronicus opened with a flourish of military music and the tramp of marching feet in what is thought to be Vancouver's first full production in Vancouver of this infrequently produced Shakespeare play.

Popular in its day, The Lamentable Roman Tragedy of Titus Andronicus fell into disfavour for centuries until it was brilliantly revived by Peter Brook, at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-on-Avon, in 1955. This presentation stunned the audience, as did Mad Duck’s presentation on its opening night.

Jack Paterson directed this in the round with a central, tiered platform, using a complex lighting design to define time and place, and to enhance grandeur, desolation or despair, mystery or triumph. Drumbeats and brass underlined the ceremonial and military scenes, while subtler instruments enhanced the quieter, more intimate ones.

Family loyalty and clan tradition are strong themes in this play as is patriotism. The idealistic Roman general Titus authoritatively and sympathetically played by Keith Martin Gordey, is unused to the insidious intrigue and plotting by his defeated and captured enemies, and is unprepared for the political use to which his magnanimity to the ambitious Saturninus (Craig Erickson) will be put. In his “eye for an eye” philosophy and his defence of his family and Rome’s honour lie his downfall.

Lavinia, daughter to Titus (Anna Cummer), becomes a pawn of contention when given to Saturninus to be his wife, then abducted by her brothers and restored to her betrothed, Bassianus. In her transformation from a happy young woman, welcoming home her warrior father and brothers, to a terrified, abject, bloodstained victim of physical violence she is heartbreaking.

As a determined survivor, finding ways speechlessly to name her mutilators, and bring them to their just deserts, she displays strength and courage. The Andronicus soldier sons Lucius (Mike Wasko), Mutius (Doug Herbert), Martius (Eric Davis) and Quintus (David Purvis) all move and behave like well-drilled soldiers. Lucius as the oldest brother, is the leader, who becomes a responsible commanding officer.

Jack Paterson introduces Lucius’son, the boy, young Lucius, at the opening of the play. Though he does not speak until halfway through, he is there as part of the family, destined to carry on with its traditions. Una Memisvic manages this difficult role with finesse, from a child to a thoughtful, brave youth in whose hands the future of Rome will eventually be secure.

Marca, is the statesman of the family whose restraining advice and quiet voice return reason to the others of his distraught family. This character is well portrayed by Lesley Ewen.

The enemies whom Titus brings captive home to Rome are Tamora with her children and Aaron the Moor. The scheming consul Saturninus becomes enchanted by the elegant and seductive Tamora, (Teryl Rothery). Her lover is Aaron the Moor. As this arrogant, cruel, evil genius, who smiles smoothly, while bargaining and plotting, Jason Emanuel is chillingly frightening in his enjoyment of his devious, devilish ploys.

Others in the cast all realize their roles competently, and all the actors perform as a company. There is rapport between them and the speech and timing are excellent.

This is a very strong performance of a powerful play. To have produced it at such a level the director and cast have had to be “Bloody bold and resolute” and screwed their “courage to the sticking-place” to bring off such a resounding success. In view of the fact that this was the popular choice of play from local audiences and that it is such an exciting and outstanding production, it deserves a full house every night. If you miss this one you will have missed a historic occasion.

© 2006 Jane Penistan