Titus Andronicus (1993): Hornsey Road Swimming Baths, North London
PrTitus Andronicus (1993)
KNOWN CAST: Tony Austin (Saturninus); Caroline Hetherington (Lavinia); Howard Saddler (Aaron); John Whitelaw (Titus).
Exact dates for this production are not known. Production information taken from reviews.
"All the clocks, both inside and outside this derelict old lido, are set at midnight. The tiles are cracked. Bloody signs are daubed on the walls. The 50 seats, ranged around the empty pool, are bolted to the floor. This is the scene for a brutal prize-fight, for an old score to be settled, or for some vile intitiation rite to be meted out in secret....Against all odds and expectations, this is a truly remarkable evening - and not just for its mortuary ambience. Director John Longenbaugh has tuned his production perfectly to fit such an abattoir of a venue; the acting is cool, hard-hitting and effective; the modern-dress costumes are stark, dark and unshowy; the pacing is at once electric and controlled." ~ Michael Wright, Time Out, 1 September 1993
"John Longenbaugh has staged his raw production of Titus Andronicus in a disused swimming bath in the Hornsey Road, north London. The audience sit in two single strands along the sides of the pit-like, grimey-white, empty pool. The room is eerily dry, but everywhere you look there are capable Victorian gutters, waiting to carry rivers of blood into efficiently designed drains....Before a word is spoken, the combination of space and the subject-matter of the play triggers instinctive memories of Psycho....This leaves the first scene with an enormous dramatic responsibility, which Longenbaugh deftly meets. He directs Shakespeare's formal speeches with a slow and deliberate delivery and underscores them with a funeral tattoo of jangled chains and measured footfalls....Comparisons will be made with Deborah Warner's superb Titus [RSC 1987]...Like Longenbaugh, Warner achieved remarkable horror simply by trusting Shakespeare's words to unwind the plot. But she also built her play around the passionate performance of Brian Cox as Titus. Each step in his descent from acclaimed general to bloody lunatic was articulated coherently to form a continuous narrative of grief. There is no such human continuity in this Titus, played by John Whitelaw, who hacks and cackles his way through the second half of the play like a cross between Pa Ubu and Sweeney Todd. Instead, Longenbaugh builds his human narratives around the subtle performances of Tony Austin as a snakish Emperor Saturninus and the elegantly spoken Howard Saddler as Aaron....This deliberate inhumanity is supported by Helen Baines's spare design (black suits and lockers for costume and props) and the central idea of the swimming-pool set. Much of the butchery takes place in the pit of the pool itself, over which the audience hangs like spectators in an amphitheatre. The bloody banquet itself is plotted to be viewed from above, ending with Titus in his kitchen apron comically sprawled across the table next to an inverted dish of offal, while Saturninus grimly echoes his position on the swimming room floor....After her rape, Lavinia...walks the entire length of the dry pool in a ghastly blood-drenched solo procession between the lines of silent spectators." ~ Tom Morris, "Titus Andronicus", Times Literary Supplement, September 24, 1993