A magnificent performance from David Troughton in the eponymous role. Pictures: Helen Maybanks

Titus Andronicus

The Royal Shakespeare Company



This easily five-star production of one of Shakespeare’s rarest tragedies is yet another feather in the cap of the Royal Shakespeare Company, in a season already studded with directorial triumphs – fabulous teamwork filled out by terrific, clever casts.

The hilarious The Hypocrite, the magical Queen Anne, the fabulously conceived Salome starring teen-looking Matthew Tennyson as a sensational boy-girl (LGBT?) lead, and an almost as energised Antony and Cleopatra all suggest the company under Greg Doran can match anything of the Sixties heyday, when Peter Hall brought the company to London’s Aldwych in 1961 with a Cherry Orchard starring John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Dorothy Tutin, Roy Dotrice, Paul Hardwick,  Patrick Wymark and Patience Collier, and As You Like It with Vanessa Redgrave, Ian Bannen and Max Adrian. As a goggling thirteen-year-old, treated by my father, I was besotted by them all. 

The star of Stratford’s new production, wondrously and searingly directed by Blanche McIntyre (the Shakespeare-Fletcher Two Noble Kinsmen), is undoubtedly David Troughton, son of a great actor (the late Patrick Troughton) and brother of another. For 20 years now, Troughton has been one of the RSC’s golden prizes, a five or even ten star actor (not just a vicious Richard III, following Antony Sher’s RSC and preceding Mark Rylance’s company staging, winning Troughton the John Gielgud Best Actor Award), but bizarre and hilarious in Ben Jonson’s The Devil is an Ass at The Swan, and moving in the John Thaw role in  Goodnight Mister Tom (Duke of York’s Theatre and touring, 2015-16) to boot. This seething Andronicus has, unexpectedly, a reputation as one of the RSC’s wittiest company jokers and leg-pullers.

Over the decades the RSC has fielded some famous – or infamous – names in the lead of Titus Andronicus: Olivier served up the bloody remains of the demonic Germanic queen Tamora’s obnoxious sons – a true Gothic horror - in 1955. Colin Blakely followed in 1972, Patrick Stewart in 1981, and Brian Cox – a shrewd, bullying choice - in 1987. One of the most cannily chilling RSC castings was in 2003, when the sinister, magnificently underplayed and foully, subtly appalling David Bradley donned Titus’s ironic chef’s hat for a meal of absorbingly entertaining cannibalism.

All these Thespians of genius hilariously and chillingly revelled in gore. Patrick Stewart found in the title role in this, one of Shakespeare’s rawest early (somewhat Hispanic) plays, all the inward-turned, all-consuming self-paralysing fury that he brought to the rather similar lead in The Winter’s Tale (tyrannical/deceived/maltreated/vengeful, though in Titus there is no remorse); which in turn relates to Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare’s latest, ‘lost daughter’, plays).

Titus actually initiates his own downfall by executing, ritualistically and in cold blood, and ignoring the mother’s pleas, the Gothic queen’s eldest son, a prisoner of war, thus vitiating the Geneva Convention in the opening scene; so dotty is Titus, great general no more, by the end, that Stewart’s reading even anticipated his ultra-haunted, pretty much crackers Thane of Glamis/Cawdor in Rupert Goold’s notably claustrophobic, clinical adaptation of that unmentionable Jacobean black comedy (most say Tragedy).

All of those acknowledged great performances of Andronicus - vicious, stop-at-nothing, and disturbingly funny – were capped by a leering, salivating Anthony Hopkins, whetting his kitchen utensils in director Julie Taymor’s (Taymor-Tamora) no-holds-barred 2001 movie Titus.

Shakespeare mapped out this famously disturbed and disturbing play soon after he completed Henry VI (a trilogy where, as here, everyone knifes everyone else. Mediaeval England’s biggest names – Humphrey of Gloucester (Henry V’s younger brother and Henry VI’s jealously resented guardian); heir-elect Richard, Duke of York, Lord Protector and father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather of five English monarchs; and finally the saintly King himself (in 1470) - get the chop.


Titus, this imaginary Roman Empire horror-drama, also coincided with Richard III, which famously comprises – albeit without cannibalism (merely drowning in a butt of Malmsey) ingredients of everything from Crookback Dick’s appetite for seeing the disgraced – or at least displaced – Lord Hastings’ head ‘by supper-time’, to a revolting royal craving for blood-red ecclesiastical strawberries.

Food – craving for it, feasting on it, jokes about it, threats and blackmail, surrounding it, ominous dinners - is an evil-smelling Leitmotif throughout this gruesomely gripping Elizabethan psychodrama.

Andronicus, whether as père or grandpère, is often dismissed as an inconvenient aberration in Shakespeare’s oeuvre, a tiresome, inexplicable distraction (like Timon of Athens) from the Bard’s more celebrated, perhaps more fully-mapped, protagonists. Such is its grotesque violence, its Sicilian cycle of revenge, and its obscene revelling in blood and (literally) guts.

It feels, to some critics, perhaps some of the public too, like unrepresentative Shakespeare, even an irrelevance. The Two Gentlemen of Verona, based on an Iberian pastoral, the Commedia dell’Arte The Taming of the Shrew and the Plautine Comedy of Errors – mishaps or farces all - date from broadly the same year (1594, when Andronicus was actually printed).

And yet, if you listen closely to those lines, sometimes deceptively wafting, part-searing lines, it’s extraordinary how many of Shakespeare’s great mid- and late-period plays get pre-empted by Titus: not just the frequent odd line, but sometimes whole swathes. Lear (1605/08) is in there; and \Measure for Measure; so is The Tempest (1611): one passage feels like a dead ringer for the Ferdinand-Miranda scenes, and another is pure Trinculo.

Furthermore, Titus Andronicus, set in very late Imperial Rome (fourth into fifth century A.D.), is all but a dummy run for Coriolanus, a play from the mists of Roman Republican history (491 B.C.), set just after the expulsion of the embattled last Etruscan king. Both military heroes, Titus and Caius Martius, lose their rag, then their judgment, wits and sense of balance. When the latter marches on Rome in tandem with his country’s enemies, the Etruscan Volsci (with the Andronici it is the Goths), it is his own fatal sentiment, persuaded and prevailed on by his mother Volumnia (think Vanessa Redgrave, or Sybil Thorndike) and his wife, that makes him abort the siege, only to be executed in fury by his angry, empire-aspiring new ‘allies’.

David Troughton’s entry line, though burly in outline and initially self-assured, is ‘Hail, Rome! victorious in my mourning weeds’; and after one surviving son, Mucius, (Joseph Adelakun) is killed by his father in a family row, two other sons are beheaded in a grisly stitch-up, plotted by the Moor Aaron, Tamara;s éminence grise and sometime clandestine lover, before Act I is over.

Lucius Andronicus, Titus’s youngish son (of his 25 male offspring, no less than 21 have perished recently, in full-scale battle or skirmishes with the Goths, and doubtless other foes), is the survivor, the Benjamin of the litter, much trusted by his father (although he is not in fact the end of the line). Yet it is he, Lucius senior who – so we think and hope - may usher in a new, hopefully enlightened regime, much like Prince Malcolm, the future Malcolm III Canmore, does at the end of the Scottish Play.

In McIntyre’s endlessly thoughtful and almost constantly cleverly reimagined staging, Lucius, just when poised to assume by default (all the rest are dead) the imperial purple, falls victim to a cruel trick: an unidentified, knife-wielding, ominous hit-man in monkish red cowl. Tom McCall as Lucius gives us a more than adequate, if not especially militaristic, individual: a bit stolid perhaps, more the aspiring lieutenant than a war-seasoned warrior (again, like Malcolm, the untested king-to-be): a mite short on imagination, maybe even on intellect: no match for his old-soldier, Patton, Horrocks or Rommel-like father.

True, it would have been spectacular to see Steven Berkoff (famed for Greek, his foul-mouthed, gobbing treatment of Sophocles, and the best independent company staging of Salome before the RSC’s, as Titus: one of the current British actors who might most obviously have rivalled Troughton’s bullish yet nerve-tingling performance. Incidentally, McCall is also good at landing first blows: he plays Casca in the RSC’s current Julius Caesar: ‘Speak, hands, for me!’)

I was slightly more struck – and mysteriously stricken - by his young son, Lucius minor (Will Parsons), a demure, grey-worsted prep school boy, aptly respectful at the start, genuinely fond of and quietly lionised by his grandad, but gradually and complaisantly drawn into the action: to the extent that we wonder if he has a less amiable teenage agenda of his own. Parsons, perhaps surprisingly on only his inaugural RSC appearance, proves a worthy debutant and makes a cracking good job of his growing to manhood role, with his acutely alert, vigilant boyish attention to events, to people, and to detail. You can sense the ears waggling, a bit like Trump junior at his father’s inauguration. You can see this Lucius junior is absorbing politics – and mischief - like a sponge. Maybe, not all he learns – or eagerly imbibes - is to the good.

Marcus and Lucius

Patrick Drury as Marcus Andronicus and Will Parsons as Young Lucius

Will Parsons shares the role with two others, Sebastian Dibb (with three Stratford roles to his credit already, and plainly a versatile lad); and the impish Luca Saraceni-Gunner (what an elegant name for a role in Titus Andronicus!), who has clocked up no fewer than four Stratford roles already (including – I take it as a boy servant to Brutus or Cassius – in the RSC’s hit staging of Julius Caesar this season). More power to Parsons’ elbow, and indeed to all three (six) of their elbows.

It may be that this teenager, as the (eventual) Emperor Lucius, will fulfil all hopes and expectations: he may be the turning point in this bitter cycle of the viciousness and feuding. Viewed positively, we are clearly witnessing the extinction of the flawed, murky, mucky old era that Titu, Tamora and their immediate descendants typify, and being made privy to some kind of natural sequence: the passing on of the torch.

But when the still young (in his thirties?) father, Lucius père, is quietly, cynically, and all but silently assassinated at his moment of supreme triumph - again, cue Julius Caesar by this Death-figure straight out of The Name of the Rose, I’m surprised the director Blanche McIntyre, for whom thus production is an unadulterated triumph, didn’t suggest – or did she? - that the virginal boy had, learning the art young, manipulated and largely instigated his father’s totally surprise, death.

Totally surprise, because of course – directorial licence - it isn’t in the script. Titus’ son Lucius, leading his Goths (here. Armed-to-the-hilt Volscian lookalikes) does indeed succeed like Malcolm, and terminates the play by proclaiming the final couplet ’Then afterwards, to order well the state / That like events may ne’er it ruminate.’ 

What the teen or even pre-teen boy, an articulate little geezer, actually comments is, ‘O grandsire, grandsire! Even with all my heart / Would I were dead, so you did live again. O Lord! I cannot speak to him for weeping! My tears will choke me if I open my mouth.’ Rather a decent heir to the throne, one thinks. Well brought-up. And that repeated ‘grandsire’ (he calls Titus that near the start, too) and the wonderfully dated expression ‘ope’ suggest that his prep school has taught him refined Tudor English.

But if, as the director teases us, there is more – perhaps worse to come (in the imperial Rome of Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Commodus, Caracalla, there often was), then the 14-odd deaths I counted here – they make Richard III’s tariff, even the Princes, look like child’s play, then whatever the outcome, you have the feeling Rome could be in for more Sicilian-style vengeful vendetta, and that this young milksop Parsons may don armour or acquire a vicious modern-day cabinet (Saddam’s, Lukashenko’s, some would add Assad’s Alawite cronies) and cynically preside over the whole damn resurgence. 

The real instigator of all this later misery is a Moor (pro-Semitism or aThe real instigator of all this later misery is a Moor (pro-Semitism or a colour-blindness were not a particular virtue of Shakespeare and his playwright contemporaries), namely Aaron, the arch-villain of the piece, Tamora’s not-so-illicit lover, part of her Gothic retinue, and the malignant deviser and initiator of one grisly murder after another. David Troughton’s Titus is pretty marvellous in this respect: he fires off lines as crisply and clearly as a Bletchley Park stenographer. There are no muddles, or mix-ups, or meanderings; he speaks magnificently. What’s more, he – or he and McIntyre – deploy pauses and silences to quite devastating effect.’When is that next line coming?’ you think. ‘Will it ever come?’ The results, carefully placed and interspersed as they are, are always shattering. And brother Marcus, the sober senior tribune (see below), is pretty impressive too.

The black man (the wonderful Guildhall-trained Stefan Adegbola, a triumphant Lancelot Gobbo (The Merchant of Venice) and zany Dr. Pinch (The Comedy of Errors) at Shakespeare’s Globe) doesn’t chop anyone’s head off: like Richard, or King John, he merely assigns someone else to do it.

But Adegbola does more than that. He speaks the best poetry in the play, and is the supreme speaker of it. Maligned though the Jew, or the Moor, may be in Shakespeare generally, the Bard allots Aaron the best, most expressive verse – John Donne meets Traherne, Keats, T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden of the lot. In McIntyre’s ever-inspired and of course inspiringly cast  Titus, Stefan Adegbola proves  himself surely one of the finest, most refined and engaging verse speakers in Britain today. His was a knockout performance to, not least as he forwent the kind of Macbeth witches-type concocting of noxious diabolism in favour of an incredibly subtle, hence all the more ominous, treatment. At times, you scarcely know he’s there, so skilled is he at hovering in the background, manipulating. Sometimes he takes front stage. Either way, he’s still this play’s angel of death.

Aaron and Tamora

Stefan Adegbola as Aaron and Nia Gwynne as Tamora 


Another angel of death – apart from the red-clad figure who emerges to wipe out emperor-to-be Lucius – is the comic guy. Yes, even in this blackest of black comedies (can one really deem it tragedy?) Will Shakspere (or Shaxpere) must have a Porter, a Dogberry, a Fool, a Feste, a Touchstone. Enter, latterly on a bike with a big turquoise bag emblazoned ‘Deliveroo’, Will Bliss, whom Shakespeare calls merely ‘Clown’. And with glorious shaggy locks yet also a hint of Inspector Clouseau about him, clown he does.

We need a laugh, because in Titus what’s to come is invariably even more ghastly than what has preceded. Clever old Bard, to play with our emotions, make us drop our guard, lose sight of anticipation, then crank up the horror so masterfully. No other playwright of his age, arguably – Webster, Marlowe - manages this unashamed device of comic distraction more cunningly and adroitly than Mr. W. S., tugging our already torn and tattered emotions almost to screeching point.

Finally, Troughton’s by now comedic Titus, as much distraught and sunk in seeming depression as purely vengeful, turns the tables and himself becomes, in his outrageously funny pastiche toque blanche (chef’s hat) and apron, whetting the fatal knife, the killer. He is, after all, a 25-year veteran born under the Roman eagle to slaughter indiscriminately all and sundry. What difference does two or three more make?

Especially if we remember that Andronicus, even as he refuses the crown (and, unlike Caesar, means it), ordered - part through cultural necessity (Rome’s unyielding Gods demanded it), part gratuitously – that early dismissal of Tamora’s precious Alarbus - a war captive - and how would we view that nowadays, post-Geneva?, and the beheading or stoning or Tarpeian Rock hurling that sets the whole sanguineous process in motion.

A pity, one might also opine, that Titus did not, if only for self-protection, bump off the other two Goth lads as well: the unlikely-named Demetrius (Sean Hart) and the oddly Hellenic Chiron (Luke MacGregor) - both toughs and roughs who give strong and muscular performances (they wrestle for ours and their mother’s delight, to prove it) – and thus prevent his daughter, the exquisitely played Lavinia (Hannah Morrish) from being raped by them and having her tongue cut out (the source is Ovid’s Metamorphoses 6: the myth of Tereus, Philomela and Procne, which this story mirrors almost to the letter).

But who does the mirroring? Surprisingly, not Shakespeare himself. In truth, this tragedy, with its unalloyed violence and revenge, is pure Seneca (no surprise: Lucius Annaeus – around 4 B.C. to 65 A.D - lived through, and committed suicide in, Nero’s reign.). Or his great imitator, Racine (Andromaque, Britannicus, Phèdre). But Shakespeare’s actual precursor and source, the capable pirater of earlier versions, and deviser of this whole ingenious Titus Andronicus farrago, was most likely the thirty-something poet and playwright George Peele 1556-96), author of inter alia a drama entitled Edward I - surely worth reviving alongside Marlowe’s poignant gay-riddled Edward II and the now generally accepted Shakespearean Edward III - and pretty well known in his day.

Peele, so the RSC’s excellently laid out programme notes tell me, mapped out most aspects of the plots (presumably including the violating of Philomela and amputation of her (in the Greek original) glossa, or tongue, Peele devised much of the bitter irony that precedes each horrendous death, and the proof-of-the-pudding, icing-on-the-cake masterchef sequence as well.

Act I may be largely Peele’s, possibly in detail and verse as well as structure, with Shakespeare adding some of the finishing touches, to whatever extent, just as Mozart weighed in to add a few piquant touches to Schikaneder’s The Philosopher’s Stone just a year before his own The Magic Flute. By contrast, Acts 2 and 3 of Titus Andronicus (and certainly the actual language throughout, rhyming or not) are seen as being the echt Shakespeare of the mid-1590s; just as The Comedy of Errors is largely filched from Plautus’s Menaechmi, with two sets of twins and three pairs of brothers, Tanists as the ancients might have called them, paralleled closely enough in life as in death to be almost dubbed Romano-Gothic twins. The brothers would surface much later, exiled and hiding, in Cymbeline.   

Who supplied the highlights of this smartly, incredibly well thought-out, brainily and absorbingly voyeurist abominable play, and its staging? I’ve never seen a bad Lavinia, just as I haven’t ever seen a weak Imogen in Cymbeline (since my first ever, the young Vanessa Redgrave). The RSC’s young Hannah Morrish is right up there with the best of them. She is pure, innocent of the real yet forcibly unreal world, doggy-devoted to duty, yet a mutant, unable to speak, unable to clutch, only to wave her bandaged bloody stumps. If ever there were a definition of that possibly over-exposed modern word abuse, it is to be found here.

Morrish presents an inexperienced, immature adolescent, probably early teens, enough for us to find Demetrius and Chiron’s ravishing of her all the worse: there is a bloody outcome, as well as psychological trauma which Morrish captures with every hapless, handless, tongueless gesture (take away her eyes and she could be Lear’s Gloucester; in her support of her by then similarly (though voluntarily) wristless father, she is like Edgar (‘Poor Tom’) guiding his blinded sire.

In fact by her loyalty Lavinia almost discovers herself afresh, renewed by all that awfulness into a rock of support to her pater, never servile, just there to (another irony) protect him. Without Lavinia, Troughton’s Titus might have really lost his reason. She grows emotionally to become the voice of that reason. The rape by Tamora’s sons is as awful as could be; yet is it also analogous to the experience of any woman of a certain temperament or callow rawness - and certainly thousands from previous centuries (especially the 19th) - whose first experience and taste of marital sex is not just confusing, distressing and disappointing, but downright horrendous?

The decent chap of this play is Titus’s utterly sane brother Marcus (Patrick Drury), one of three Tribunes of the Plebs (or People) in this drama, the other two being performed pretty pleasingly, and – albeit a fraction more tamely - with distinct individual characters, by Marcello Walton (Publius – sound, loyal and reliable even when caught between two lines of fire) and, even more so, Emillius (more usually Aemilius, played by Anthony Ofoegbu), who gets caught up in the action and proves an invaluable, loyal gopher, helping keep Troughton (just) on the rails.

Drury – Aaron apart - has many of the noblest lines in the play, and was one of this stage show’s finest speakers (as all Tribunes – a historic title that on Rome’s seven hills dated back almost a thousand years, running through Republic and Empire alike - had to be, being both swayers of the public and controllers of the mob). On seeing, in the pivotal Act III Scene I, the heads of two of the last of his survivor nephews – uncle Marcus had presumably known them since their nappies, he laments: ‘Now let hot Etna cool in Sicily, And be my heart an ever burning hell! These miseries are more than can be borne…’.


Hannah Morrish as Lavinia

And then, faced, worse still, with mutilated Lavinia, hands swathed in dripping bandages (as one of Titus’ will shortly, thanks to Aaron’s dastardly trickery), replies as she kisses her father (compare Hamlet Act I, SC. 2, of his mother and uncle): ‘Alas! poor heart; that kiss is comfortless As frozen water to a starvéd snake.’ Titus one of the most maligned Shakespeare drama is full of fabulous lines. It’s a pity the gore always steals the headlines with Titus Andronicus, rather than the incredibly versatile verbal detail.

Morrish will make of Lavinia a salve to her father; for now, she is but another dependant and another mouth to feed` (who will marry her now? She has already lost one husband, Dharmesh Patel’s emperor-aspirant, and very acceptably acted, Bassianus).

Bassianus’ rival for the crown, when Titus unexpectedly declines it, is Martin Hutson’s suitably devious Saturninus. Hutson and director McIntyre make of him a playboy shit, who starts by breaking every oath in sight, and intends to carry on as he started. Dark glasses, beach towels, and randy cavortings with (displacing Lavinia) his new wife Tamora, captive Queen of the Visigothic auld enemy. Nia Gwynne, crookedly not just as obnoxious, but as bloodcurdlingly delinquent, iniquitous and feloniously bloodthirsty as he is, does a good enough job, without being (perhaps by agreed design) quite as up-front or registering to the same degree as some previous Tamoras have done.

When all comes unstuck in the (again) Hamlet-style dénouement, as the loathsome, snaky Tamora (she was dressed a bit like that by the RSC’s super designer Robert Inness Hopkins, as much a genius at theatre design as at opera designs), Saturninus (who instantly kills Titus the chef, the sons remains having been served up like pigs’ heads in a pie or stew), and – Emperor or no - is himself duly polished off by Lucius senior, the price of Saturninus’ removal, the requisite burnt offering or hecatomb - oddly evocative of that original death of Jon Tarcy’s Alarbus - could be said to be the expiry of Troughton’s undoubtedly maltreated, yet despite his moral triumph, utterly deflated Titus, who – unlike most successful Roman generals (Tiberius, Vitellius, Vespasian, Trajan, Septimius Severus, Diocletian, Constantine) resigned the Empire to Saturninus - seemingly legitimate joint heir to the unnamed preceding emperor - whichever of whom won the popular vote supervised (nepotically, had Titus himself accepted/got elected), consistently honorable brother, Marcus Andronicus (Drury). I used to think there were only two Tribunes of the Plebs, but it appears that at times even under the Republic (till 27 B.C.) there were sometimes as many as ten. By |Imperial times the Tribunes played an additional role to crowd control, overseeing umpteen civil service offices such as Agrippa’s Fire Service.

So – it is all over. Only two of substance survive the mayhem: Marcus; and Parsons’- Dibb’s - Saraceni-Gunner’s boy Lucius junior, already looking Emperor material, though hopefully not a Caligula or Elegabalus. A lot of flies have been swatted.

What has to be said by way of closing is that the Lights (Malcolm Rippeth) were simply brilliant – superbly spot-directed, intelligently coloured, scrupulously on-text - in every scene, from beginning to end. Hopkins is a number one choice Designer, as you could find out from Covent Garden or Glyndebourne, Venice, Antwerp, Chicago, Geneva, Zurich. The use of the centre-stage hatch (a Stratford favourite now, but ingeniously varied here); or the squared-off rear columns (which belong also to Antony and Cleopatra, and maybe Caesar too), come into their own de temps en temps, not least when half a dozen eerie corpses (that must be the toll so far) appear in six available apertures to preside like Banquo’s ghost (‘Never shake thy gory locks at me?’) or Richard III’s Bosworth ghosts over the next unfolding horrors.

Troughton is, for me, unmatched in so many fields. He can give us dotty Jonsonian comedy (as ‘Fitzdottrel’) opposite a bluff and burly John Nettles (‘Meercraft’) and an outrageous  twenty-something Douglas Henshall, now seen as rather grim cops on TV, as the English stage hoot of the year (‘Wittipol’ = ‘The Spanish Lady’) at the Swan; completely dominate the Barbican’s wide, slightly unforgiving stage as a muscular battle-axe-wielding Dicky III.

The man is top-class, just as his father, the never less than inspiring Patrick Troughton, was – famous as a children’s TV actor (Kidnapped, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Ivanhoe, William Tell - as the wicked Gessler, the ‘tyrannical reeve of Hapsburg Austria, i.e. a Swiss medieval Sheriff of Nottingham, felled by Conrad Phillips’ crossbow ) – long before hitting the headlines succeeding William Hartnell as the second Doctor Who.

It seems clichéd to suggest a British stage actor can make you transcend yourself, lift you onto another plane, purge your emotions, just as big American names rightly ‘sell’ films to massive audiences. But Troughton, Bradley, McKellen, Rylance, Jim Broadbent, the late Richard Griffiths and John Hurt, Jude Law, Simon Russell Beale, Hugh Bonneville, Christian Bale, Jamie Parker or Samuel Barnett (the unforgettable Scripps and Posner in Nicholas Hytner’s RNT staging of The History Boys) - and now surely the RSC’s Matthew Tennyson (Salome in daringly scanty pink negligée, unbelievably mesmerising): these are the names that would draw me every time to any theatre where they are (or were) playing.

Troughton, the Stratford company’s Associate Artist and undoubted treasure of three decades, was an obvious bet for the RSC’s Lear and regicidal Macbeth; and of course he’d be a brutally fratricidal Claudius. But he could also do Othello, who - despite Lennie Henry’s genius of a reading at the Birmingham Rep - need not be a black actor. What a treat that such brilliant Thesps should grace the English, and especially the Stratford, boards during our very own era.  

Titus Andronicus runs at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until Saturday 2 September 2017; and is at the Barbican Theatre, London from Thursday 7 December 2017 to Friday 19 January 2018.

Roderic Dunnett


Index page RSC  Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre