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Wrestling Shakespeare

Photo: Ian Bull

Liven up your Halloween with some Shakespeare horror.

By BOHEMIST STAFF

PRAGUE – When the Prague Shakespeare Company took on the ambitious task of performing the entire canon of Shakespeare works in one year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Sheakespeare’s death, some of the more difficult plays were left until the end.

Directors Dan Brown and Amy Huck have tackled – quite literally – Shakespeare’s most gruesome play – Titus Andronicus.

The play is a bloody game of revenge between Roman warrior Titus Andronicus and his enemy, the Queen of Goths Tamora. More than a few hands, heads and tongues are lost along the way with the play culminating in a feast cooked from Tamora’s sons (and we do mean “from” not “by”). But how to make such a graphically violent play palatable for a Prague audience?

Set it in a WWF wrestling ring of course. The play sees Titus’s characters assume outrageous wrestling characters from American to Mexican wrestling and all deaths are deaths by full, half – even three quarter ‘nelsons.’

We sat down with directors Dan and Amy to learn more.

Tell us about the concept for this performance of Titus Andronicus?

Dan: I have always had a strong attachment to Titus as one of Shakespeare’s least performed pieces and I’ve loved the fact that I think you can see a young Shakespeare really saying ‘I can do tragedy too’ and he really over does it. Overdoes the blood, the revenge. It is also a play about order and honor and I love the fact that it’s so to the front, not as subtle as his later plays.

Amy: It’s outrageous. So many people die. Decapitations, hands cut off.

Dan: There’s more death on stage (than other plays where deaths occur offstage). The only way to do it is to make a huge production or to make it more absurd. I grew up with wrestling and I thought because there is that bombastic style that it works perfectly.

Amy: Extreme wrestling and these worlds where people really behave this way, except for the murdering (laughs). It’s all a show and that’s why the wrestling works because the wrestling is theater anyway.

Dan: By taking the absurdity to the extreme, leaving us a place to make comments on the absurdity of violence and obsession with revenge. And on women and women as objects to be bartered traded abused. Have their pussies grabbed. And I thought it would be really funny to have an Australian as Titus.

You’ve mentioned that your show is a comment on violence?

Dan: Why do we consume violence, why is it attractive? It’s a question for somebody to ask themselves. A question for us to ask ourselves.

Amy: Violence happens because people don’t think outside their limited scope of dealing with situations and problems. It’s passed on from generation to generation. It’s a quick fix reaction to the human emotion that we have. The killing of Tamora’s son happens in the first page of the play because Titus says we have to sacrifice a prisoner of war because we have lost some of our people. It’s all eye for an eye and the cycle of violence continues. Romans want a sacrifice and this is how we do it. Everybody continues on with the quick answer, which is to get revenge. And then the pleading for reason from Tamora, Lavinia, Titus, Lucius, Aaron – nobody will listen to reason.

Dan: Violence trumps reason.

Amy: And then at the end of the play, everybody’s dead and there’s no winner.

Why has it traditionally been one of Shakespeare’s least performed plays?

Dan: Shakespeare wrote probably half of it. It’s a mess. It’s not logical and messes up time and in the 18th and 19th Centuries it was seen as distasteful. But. because of the extreme violence of the 20th Century its come back again to be seen as having more relevance.

This play is being performed as part of the PSC 400. How has this year been for the company?

Amy: If the company pulls it off, it’s a remarkable achievement, there is no other company in the world that has done such a thing. If you think about how complicated one Shakespeare play is, they’ve done a version of every play – it’s almost one a week for a whole year.

Dan: It’s also an attempt to see how Shakespeare is still relevant. You can do an installation piece and music piece and see that Shakespeare still speaks to us.

Amy: The works have been performed through various media. There have been dance performances, films, puppets.

Dan: It’s a chance to see that Shakespeare still speaks to us in so many different forms.

Any final words?

Dan: Come and see the show its funny as shit.

Amy: It’s a spectacle.

————–

Performances start at 19:00 at the Divadlo Kolowrat (Kolowrat Theatre) on:
Monday October 31st
Tuesday November 1st
Friday November 4th
Saturday October 5th
Tickets 350 Kč or 200 Kč for students.
Reserve your tickets online through emailing tickets@pragueshakespeare.cz or purchase at the door for Halloween.

About Bohemist

Bohemist is an upstart news outlet serving the Czech Republic. Feel free to write us at editor@bohemist.cz.

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