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Review of Titus Andronicus performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at Delapre Abbey, Northampton

While I found the production excellent, I had found the sheer existence of a history play in Richard II the day before a bind to watch, even in its shortened form. However, Titus Andronicus was to be very different in every way. I hadn't seen Titus before, however, I knew enough to know that it was a bit of a bloodbath and a strange little play. As it turned out this production not only was superb but also it is possible my favourite Shakespeare play to date.

Unlike Richard II the day earlier, there is a little more traditional casting and in the lead we had Alexander Forester Coles, who brings about a commanding and controlling portrayal in the first half and deftly developing the performance after the interval into a tremendously well timed and batty character as revenge and certain madness of his character unfold.

Alexandra Pienaru as Tamora gives a wickedly minxy portrayal of Tamora, Queen of the Goths, exuding all the allure and hostile intent of the character and she truly looks the part as well. I also really enjoyed Mo Samuels as Aaron, a playful, but also a vicious performance with a glint of the eye. His clever scene with a "willing" audience member becoming a tree was confidently performed, a real skill in itself.

Happily for me also was seeing the confidence of Liza Swart continue, having been impressed by her performance during the first year performances of this group. As Lavinia, she gives an entrancing and yet sorrowful disturbing performance. For me, Liza is a true one to watch, a performer with a real individuality which will allow her to stand out in the highly swamped industry.

Director Tobias Deacon brings this mad as a box of frogs play together beautifully in the Delapre Abbey courtyard, creating clever use of the environment. I loved the use of incongruous balloons during the messenger scene and the performers were cleverly dressed in modern attire, but with a rough and distinctive old style edge at times as well. It's a funny thing to be fine with baseball caps in Shakespeare, but not with hi-vis in Steinbeck, however it is all a matter of balance and expectation. It takes a skill to get things correctly so.

There are some tremendous fight scenes brilliantly performed by the cast from Ian McCracken's work. While also the blood and gore is nicely realised and brutally performed at times, it's also with more than a hint of humour as the heads and hands are placed within Waitrose resealable food bags.

The whole show beneffited from being presented outside and thankfully on this occassion the British weather behaved, leaving a hugely entertaining performance for the sold out audience to be thrilled by. One of the best Bard shows that I have seen.

Performance viewed: Sunday 21st May, 2017 (matinee) at Delapre Abbey, Northampton

Titus Andronicus ran until Sunday 21st May 2017.
Twitter feed for the University actors is @BA_Actors

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