Titus Andronicus gets lost

Why? That was the question that kept on popping up in my head afterwards. Why bring Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus to the stage, if, while playing it, you can’t convince your audience why you’re doing it? It was a pity to see that many people on stage get lost, during that new performance at the KVS, Brussels’ Royal Flemish Theatre.

The horror. That were the fragments I kept on seeing, after having been to Titus Andronicus. And not because those scenes of rape and cannibalism were so gruesome. But just because during those scenes director Ravel Ruëll and his team did seem to have found a solution for the problems that staging Titus Andronicus pose to a theatre company. In those visually striking scenes, there was something of a style, of a vision.

But during the rest of that gruelling long Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s bloodiest work, full of murder, lies and revenge? It was as if director Ravel Ruëll never found the right glue, to smartly mix different views on this play within his group of actors, to bring together the actors of Antwerp-based Olympique Dramatique and the actors of the now defunct Brussels’ company Dito Dito. The Dito’s were keeping their distance, never getting too close to their characters. And the bright, witty guys from Olympique Dramatique were always trying to throw some slapstick in. In the end I felt myself sympathising quite a lot with actor Wouter Hendrickx (from tv-series Witse and hit movie De helaasheid der dingen). He is playing Aaron, the dark-skinned Moor, and with his subdued way of acting he was sort of loner on stage too.

Even the poetic quality of those Shakespeare-lines got lost in this mix, I realized after a while. Because I repeatedly found myself reading the English ‘subtitles’ on the screen, instead of listening to what the actors were saying on stage. Too bad.

‘This is a clash between Olympique Dramatique’s lightness and my own seriousness’, Ruëll says in an interview with Flemish newspaper De Standaard (read it here). It’s a clash you see on stage. But unfortunately there are no real winners, in the end.

(More info: check the KVS and Toneelhuis sites)

(photo credit: Koen Broos)


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