Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Titus Andronicus - theatre preview

A MULTI-STOREY car park in the middle of Peckham probably isn’t the first place you might think of as a place to stage a Shakespeare play.
However, for theatre company The Theory Of Everything, the Bold Tendencies multi-storey car park off Rye Lane has provided an exciting setting for one of the Bard’s bloodiest tales – Titus Andronicus.
The immersive and site-specific show will take place in and around the ninth level of the venue for a four week run starting on August 31.
It is being directed by Denmark Hill-based Pia Furtado who has created a contemporary production with a live beatboxed musical score by BellaTrix as well as some of the country’s leading Parkour performers alongside a community chorus of local residents from South London.
Promising a high octane and immersive joyride of a show, Pia says Peckham is the perfect place to explore the play’s themes of love, revenge and allegiance.
“I love Peckham, I grew up here and there is a real sense of community and diversity with lots of different groups of people all rubbing along together,” she says.
"The play is set in Rome but there is nothing in it to say that Rome hadn't seen better days. It's not historical but it shows this great city at the end of an era and on the brink of a new moment where everything is up for grabs.
"Peckham is very much like that with all the regeneration that is happening and the diverse groups that make up this community.
"When we were considering putting it on it seemed the obvious place to have it performed."
Titus is the first play to be staged at the car park which was originally intended as a venue for pop-up sculpture exhibitions run by Hannah Barry's small Peckham gallery.
It's labyrinthine layout and concrete make up lends itself to the updated nature of the production which Pia says has given her the opportunity to make the audience very much part of the show.
“It's an amazing space - gritty, urban and enclosed and it looks a bit tatty so it immediately puts you in a place where there is lots going on," she says.
"It all happens in the streets of Rome and there are meant to be swathes of Romans so it felt right to involve the audience.
"The first half is immersive. It’s all happening around the audience and that will be very exciting and I hope it will create an immediate connection to the characters.
"With a play that's so renowned for violence there is only ever any point in telling that story if you understand the characters so if you can see them close up you get more of a sense of them."
But she admits it’s not necessarily an easy play to watch.
"It’s not easy to experience whether you are in the audience or one of the actors because the performance asks a lot," she says.
"My initial thought was that it was a bloody play with a body count that’s quite high. It’s the one thing that everyone knows about the story but I did a workshop on it with some actors a few years ago and it became clear there were a lot of things in it other than the violence.
"Also, no one kills without feeling they have to and I was interested in exploring the reasons why these things happen.
"When they do there is then no end to the cycle - it doesn’t stop. And we can see this today in places all around the world so it’s a message that to me felt worth exploring."
The production has also allowed Pia to show how Shakespeare's plays still have relevance to the hear and now.
"I’m interested in how and where Shakespeare takes us with his stories. He was a brilliant writer - these are plays which are hundreds of years old yet they contain themes which resonate with people today so it feels entirely contemporary.
"Love is one of the themes in Titus and is still a thing that drives world events.
"It allows us to reflect on our own lives by seeing it in this context and there are lines in the play that feel extraordinary in this place.
"He was also multi-disciplinary – his plays are full of dance and music and song - this is just a 21st century version.
"I hope our interpretation makes it accessible, particularly to a younger audience who may not have seen Shakespeare done before."
But putting a show on in such a location hasn't been without its challenges.
"It's an incredible space to work in but I am not sure how we are going to get all the kit up to the ninth level,” laughs Pia. "There are some tight turns! But there is also no electricity and no light rigs so we are having to bring the generators up.
"Then there is the issue of the ambient noise so we are doing voice work with the actors.
"It’s very different to being on stage in an enclosed and more traditional theatre space. But it forces you to think creatively - you look at the space in a different way to see how you use the space to tell the story.
"There are always big challenges though and sometimes the restrictions force you to ask what the show needs for storytelling. We have worked around the issues and are really pleased with what we have come up with.
“Being in Peckham, and bringing this show to my own back yard, it’s something special,” she adds. “Most of the people involved in this production are from South London so we have a personal connection with it.
"If the audience goes away having enjoyed it and have engaged with it it I will be really happy!"

Titus Andronicus is on at the Bold Tendencies Multistorey Car Park, 7th & 8th Floor, 95A Rye Lane between Sunday August 31 and Sunday September 21

Tickets cost £19.50, £10 concessions. Visit www.billetto.co.uk/titus-andronicus to book.

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