Titus Andronicus: An All female Production

William Shakespeare

Smooth Faced Gentlemen

Bedlam

From 02 August 2013 to 24 August 2013

Rating: ***

Review by Philip Fisher

Smooth Faced Gentlemen is an enthusiastic, young company whose laundry bills are set to be astronomical.

Their acting and verse speaking may not win prizes but the vision of director Yaz Al-Shateer shows verve and wit, clearly delighting an audience that has probably typically not even heard of one of Shakespeare’s more obscure plays.

The heavy cutting to bring the running time down to little more than an hour does not help beginners to follow the politicking but by the end, everyone will be swept up by the horrors on show in a Jackson Pollock-inspired bloodfest that early in the run had already left the performers’ shirts a dull pink, rather than their original pristine white.

As the company’s name should indicate, the monstrous regiment on show (with parts not identified in the programme) are all women, which does not in any way detract from the fun.

They swap parts with alacrity, even the main players converting to spear carriers when the need arises.

The story of poor, blighted Titus, his horribly maimed daughter Lavinia and their nemeses, Tamora and Aaron, is rather rushed through but gets the main issues across.

At times, the tragedy is allowed to give way to gratuitous humour but that is a reasonably common reaction to a play that might otherwise be too repulsive to bear.

Overall, this is an enjoyable, paint-spattered romp that will inevitably prove popular and might even convert a few viewers to the Bard for ever more.