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A note from the director on ‘Titus Andronicus’

This year, Dramasoc are sending four companies to the Edinburgh Fringe – Not Cricket, TalkSimple, Sod’s Law, and Tripped Theatre. They’ve all been working super hard, and if you’re up in the Burgh do check them out. To whet your appetite, the wonderful, Georgia Harris, director of Tripped Theatre’s ‘Titus Andronicus, has written about what you can expect from the show and the rehearsal process.

Hello all. My name’s Georgia Harris, and I’m the Creative Director of Tripped Theatre Company as well as the Director of our production of Titus Andronicus. As our rehearsals continue to develop, I thought I’d give you a few insights into the whys and wherefores of our adaptation of Titus.

First of all, it’s down to me to edit the scripts so they say what we want them to say (and also fit into the time slots we’re given at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival) and sometimes that means losing large sections of Shakespeare’s beautiful writing. Last year we did A Midsummer Night’s Dream with 4 actors, and therefore we lost the mechanicals completely, as well as the kings, lords and any extraneous bodies who wander about the text without much adding to the plot. Instead we concentrated on the plots of the fairies and the lovers – with the actors doubling and telling their story in a much more concise manner, while still keeping the hilarity of the piece. This year we’ve got 8 actors, and we’ve got Titus.

For those of you who know the play well, you’ll notice a couple of the most prominent plot lines are missing. This is because we’re concentrating on Titus’ own story, as well as that of his family. So first to go are the sub-plots, the jesters, the hundreds of sons who only have one line and are immediately killed (ok so hundreds is slightly hyperbolising, but there are a lot of them hanging around and they really add nothing aside from a bit more blood to slosh about in). We’ve also cut one of the most prominent characters – come and see it to see exactly who has disappeared – because in our opinion, they add nothing to the story we are trying to tell. Your favourite bits are still there; there’s still a lot of blood, that all important pie, and loads of people lose appendages all over the place. The show is also still very funny (shocker – this play is funny. Very bleak but very very funny, especially Titus because that guy has to laugh or he really will lose his mind). Let’s just say our show has gone on a diet, and had a bit of surgery too. We’ve thrown a couple of extra girls in to play Chiron and Lucius because those parts lend themselves beautifully to being kick-ass, sassy women. However, our most drastic change comes in the form of a male Lavinia. Those who know Titus know that Lavinia is possibly one of the most tragic parts ever written and represents the loss of innocence, virginity, purity etc etc. The fallen woman. So what happens when that part is played by a man? Male Lavinia still is overpowered by Tamora’s lustful sons and still loses all dignity and agency. But he’s a boy – does that change your opinion of our show? Is it less tragic, or more so? Do we care less about a man who loses a fight than a woman?

Rehearsing this scene is still one of the most moving and distressing experiences of my life, for me even more so because Lavinia is a man. I expect audiences to make up their own minds, and invite all opinions once the production has been seen, and value each and every one of them. But choosing to make Lavinia a man is something I have been adamant about since the ideas inception, because it’s something we as a society tend to ignore. In Titus, it is discussed that a women should not be expected to survive her shame once she has been raped. And now, women who speak out against their attackers are applauded – and rightly so. It takes a great amount of courage to step forward in that situation. However, how often are men applauded for admitting the same? Actually, on the whole, they are laughed at. It’s comedic. Men being beaten up by their wives is funny, isn’t it? Actually, no, it isn’t. If we are aiming for a society of complete equality (ah, the dream), then this is an area that needs seriously addressing, because it’s a bigger problem than many realise and seems to be ingrained in our society. Men should ‘be a man’ – what that phrase has come to mean is frankly unacceptable – being a man should be no more than a biological statement.

Our production of Titus Andronicus is not being put on to preach – and I’m not trying to either. It’s genuinely an enjoyable show and I have never had so much fun in rehearsals as we have as a company preparing for this production. But on being asked to explain my motivations for certain decisions taken on the script and direction, certain choices have deeper meanings than simply trying to make something different so people come and see it at the Fringe.

You can catch Tripped Theatre at theSpace @ Venue 45. Read more about the show here http://trippedtheatre.com or learn how you can help the company’s fundraising campaign here https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/tripped-theatre-are-raising-funds-for-edfringe#/story