- Titus Andronicusby TeatrPolski, and: Titus Andronicusby Hiraeth Artistic Productions
After sporadic appearances in European theaters since its 1590s premiere, Titus Andronicushas recently made a spectacular return on both mainstream and fringe stages. It is not coincidental that Shakespeare’s gory tragedy of revenge has lately shared the stage in the UK with its contemporary, Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy(Lazarus Theatre Company), while on the continent it has appeared alongside its twentieth-century counterpart, Heiner Müller’s Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome: A [End Page 135] Shakespeare Commentary. More coincidental, perhaps, is the fact that both 2013 productions reviewed here chose historic moments of national(ist) tension to prize open the violent conflict between Romans and Goths and ’80s music to help carry the plot, albeit in different measures and to different ends.
Having opened in Wrocław on 15 September 2012 and in Dresden on 28 September 2012, Jan Klata’s coproduction played to a more international audience at the Shakespeare Festival, Gdansk, in August 2013, than it first had encountered. While the linguistic subtleties of this German–Polish Titus Andronicusmay have escaped non-speakers of the two languages (like me), the dialogue between Shakespeare’s and Müller’s plays and the long history of political conflict between the two nations at the heart of the production were impossible to miss. In Gdansk, itself a city with centuries of complex Polish–German history (not unlike those of Wrocław and Dresden), Klata’s Titus Andronicuswas the much awaited highlight of the Festival, which that year featured no less than five productions and adaptations of the play. Klata has a reputation for fast-paced, head-on sensual and artistic assault on his audiences, leaving no sacred national symbol untouched and challenging every taboo. This has earned him both fans and vehement critics, especially since H. (2004), his first adaptation of Hamlet, which he chose to stage in the Solidarność Shipyard in Gdansk, at the birthplace of the 1980s Polish movement that eventually helped overthrew communism, a site that, in September 2014, opened as the European Center of Solidarity Movement.
Klata’s Rome, a location at once national and European, was torn apart by conflict: the Andronici (like all male Romans, played by German and Austrian actors) returned victorious from war bringing both their trophies—Goth royalty (played by Polish actors) in chains—and their heavy burden of war casualties. Their focus, and by extension the audience’s, was first to pay tribute to the dead. Titus (Wolfgang Michalek) returned with twenty-one dead sons in flight cases which he himself brought onto the stage, one by one, to...