Tonight I attended a performance of Kabuki Titus, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, inspired by Kabuki theatre (director’s notes emphasize “inspired by” because they were not attempting to be true Kabuki). Since my memory of Kabuki was that it is pantomime, I had read the play to be prepared. It was not pantomime, so now I wonder if I remembered it that way because I didn’t understand Japanese. Still I was glad to have read the play first.
The play is an extremely violent, early play that Shakespeare wrote to join in on the popularity of the revenge play. In the director’s notes, Scott Palmer lists the violent acts: “14 killings (9 of them on stage), 6 severed limbs, 2 acts of violation, 1 live burial, 1 case of insanity, 2 acts of cannibalism involving meat pies, 1 act of a father killing his son.”
Tonight’s performance presented only the main plot, reducing the characters from 21 (plus extras) to six. The reduction eliminated much of the violence, and the Kabuki presentation stylized what was retained: Titus’ daughter Lavinia is raped, her tongue cut out so she cannot tell who, and her hands cut off so she cannot sew something with the names as did the mythic Philomela. The scene was done in shadow with stylized movement. Throughout the play, Lavinia was played by a ballerina, and the expressive dancing added immensely: much better to have dramatic motion than someone standing mute on the stage after her injuries.
This performance is the first I have attended by Bag&Baggage in Hillsboro, but I will definitely watch for more. Interestingly, the director’s notes mention the revenge themes remaining in later works, perhaps culminating in Hamlet. The other play of my weekend was Hamlet, presented by Portland Actors Ensemble. Apart from being presented outside in a historic cemetery, Hamlet was a more ordinary interpretation, albeit well done.
The Shakespeare plays got bunched into one weekend because of rain on the two previous weekends when I wanted to see Hamlet. I could have taken pictures at Hamlet, but didn’t have my camera. They were not permitted at Kabuki Titus.