LIVE productions at The Wellesley in August offer two extraordinary theatrical experiences but of very different kinds.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s modern-dress version of ‘Titus Andronicus’ illustrates viscerally that when a society is oppressed, it becomes violent – and violence means chaos and disorder. The contemporary resonances (including power struggles that are all too familiar) are meant to be disturbing and the acts depicted – including rapes, murders, mutilations, murders – are meant to shock, and shock profoundly. But the shock has a purpose in illustrating humanity’s capacity for cruelty and destruction and is far from gratuitous.
Titus, played by Patrick Troughton, has returned from a brutal 10-year war having lost 21 sons in battle. Betrayed by his nation and with his family in pieces, a series of bloody events follows as he and Tamora, Queen of the Goths, begin a violent cycle of revenge.
The play has been called ‘a feast of horrors’ but also ‘darkly comic’. One critic said, “Overall, the hewing, hacking, stabbing and shooting is world class.”
To measure the emotional engagement of audiences in the theatre and in cinemas – and to reveal whether Shakespeare still has the capacity to shock in an age where images of brutality are streamed live into living rooms in news broadcasts – selected audience members are to be fitted with heart monitors during the production. The findings will be published later in the year.
‘Titus Andronicus’ is relayed direct from the stage of the Memorial Theatre, Stratford, on Wednesday 9 August at 7pm.
The National Theatre’s production of ‘Yerma’ starring Billy Piper in her Evening Standard Best Actress award-winning role has won unequivocal plaudits from theatre critics across the board. It will be broadcast LIVE on Thursday 31 August at 7pm.
Director Simon Stone’s radical production of Lorca’s achingly powerful masterpiece presents the drama in present-day London.
‘Yerma’ – Spanish for ‘barren’ – presents the narrative of a young woman driven to the unthinkable by her desperate desire to have a child. It has been described as ‘an unmissable theatre phenomenon’ and ‘an extraordinary theatrical triumph’. One critic said: “Billy Piper will make you numb with pity.”