With Halloween just around the corner, there is no better time to take in Shakespeare’s first, and most gruesome play; Titus Andronicus. Seven Siblings Theatre obliges with a unique and hefty production that promises to be a highlight of the fall theatre season. We had a chance to chat with director Will King about the upcoming production.
What drew you to Titus Andronicus?
I’m a huge advocate for Horror and Thrillers in the theatre. I think it’s a dynamic and visceral form that is too often left for film to explore and I love creating a palpable feeling of suspense. It’s also a tremendous challenge for the actors. We get to play in a world where the stakes are so high, and the experiences are so out of the ordinary that playing them honestly leads to fulfilling and surprising sensations. It’s always the actor’s job to experience their work for the first time, but it’s especially apparent when you must experience things as large as shock, terror, or fury. These feelings and atmospheres stem from a world that is completely detached from our naturalist day-to-day. It creates a memorable and provocative experience and keeps us on our toes.
Do you feel there are any aspects of the play that mirror today’s society? Why is it still relevant?
I think it mirrors anyone who struggles with loss, particularly in a situation that merits a response. We live in a world that values antiheroes. We champion those who stand up against injustice, but seldom question the lengths they go to balance the scales. Tragedy rarely provides an equivalent exchange, and this is what happens when there’s no one to break that cycle. My central question is “how do you honour the death of a child?” Is there retribution that can fill that hole in your heart? Parenthood is a strong theme in the play and I think that relationship grounds their revenge in something worth playing.
You’ve chosen to incorporate puppetry into this production. Tell me about that choice.
The primary reason was to unlock the use of the supernatural. Fantasy helped define our sub-genre of Horror and clarify what tropes to play with throughout the process. It required a lot of diligence from the creative and technical team, but the world we’ve created helps us manifest the themes and story of the play. We’ve steeped the show in a contemporary Roman Mythology. I’m also adamant that each production we create with Seven Siblings offers a new challenge, and puppetry certainly fits the bill!
The cast of this production is quite large by independent theatre standards. How has that facet of the production shaped the work and your vision?
I think it has been a tremendous asset. This ensemble has offered a lot to one another and the power of having this number of collaborators is continually refreshing. The main reason we have such a high number is because doubling doesn’t work as well when you’re manipulating fear and suspense. In Comedy it doesn’t shatter the world, but there’s certainly a realism that Horror demands so I’ve been very conscious about multiple roles for an actor.
There are a million macabre events this time of year; why should Titus Andronicus be at the top of everyone’s list?
Aesthetically, it’s a beautiful world. The space is mythological realm with a military bunker rammed on top of it. We’ve also saturated the play in a delightful Horror nostalgia. But the center of this piece has always been the story, the text work, and the characters. It’s such an incredible collection of flawed human beings. There are no heroes in this play, but everyone is justified in their actions. Morally, I’ll leave it up to the audience to decide who’s right, but it absolutely fascinating to watch them duel.
Titus Andronicus opens this Thursday and runs until November 6th at the Citadel (304 Parliament St). Tickets and details can be found here.