Titus Andronicus playing at Kolowrat

Prague Shakespeare Company tackles the Bard's most violent play a wrestling arena

Where else would one set Shakespeare's most violent play but in a wrestling ring? As part of Prague Shakespeare Company's celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, the company is ambitiously addressing every play in one form or another.

Titus Andronicus is Shakespeare's first attempt at a tragedy, and his most violent. So violent that it is seldom performed any more.

There are two shows left in its brief run at divadlo Kolowrat, on Nov 4 and 5.

The play has been shortened so it could be staged in a small venue in a reasonable amount of time. The full text runs well over three hours, and is dense with fake history. Unlike the Bard's other plays in a Roman setting, such as Julius Caesar and Coriolanus, this one is completely made up and the exact era when it takes place is hard to pin down. So co-directors Dan Brown (not the thriller novelist) and Amy Huck tossed out several subplots and characters, and moved the setting to a professional wrestling ring.

Huck also appears as Tamora, a Goth queen. Veteran actor Peter Hosking, in camouflage tights, plays the title role.

A tuxedo clad fight announcer named Bob, played by PSC regular Bob Boudreaux, has been added to do a little plot summary. A young woman, played by Daniela Hirshová, appears on stage with cards indicating the number of the next act, as if it was a boxing round.

“We were talking about the absurdity of violence as a show, and with the amount of violence and the brutality it looked like MMA,” Brown said, referring to mixed martial arts, which takes place in a cage. The idea was interesting but putting the cast in a cage posed some technical problems in terms of staging. “Wrestling is so theatrical, much more than MMA,” Brown said. “We get the costumes, and there are also these big speeches that they have. And these are big characters, like in Shakespeare, big unreal characters trying to play real emotions.”

He added that he and his co-director decided to get rid of a lot of the classical references as they no longer held much relevance, but they still wanted the main themes to come across. “We stripped it down to its basics, which is about brutality and a cycle of violence,” he said. Another theme he left was how female characters were treated. “Women are bought and sold but are also very brutal,” he said.

He wants to leave up up the audience whether the play is just having some fun with Shakespeare or whether it makes a statement about violence.

The play is not for the squeamish. There are several executions, some hand-to-hand fighting and a some dismemberment accompanied by stage blood, as well as some gruesome implied violence.

The set, which looks like a real professional wrestling ring, was built by Michael Pitthan, who appears as Demetrius. Costumes, which intentionally have a bit of a campy low-budget look, are by Lenka Ergtová.

Also coming up soon on the PSC 400 is a reprise of Troilus and Cressida, a video presentation of live 2014 Stratford Festival performance of Antony and Cleopatra and new PSC production of Measure for Measure.

Prague Shakespeare Company thanks JUDr. Dominika Kolowrat-Krakowska, Maximilian Kolowrat-Krakowsky and Francesca Kolowrat-Krakowska for their selfless and generous support.

For more information visit www.pragueshakespeare.com

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