Shakespeare's Globe Theatre has issued a warning about its gory new production of Titus Andronicus after four members of the audience fainted in one night.
The Bard's bloodiest play features scenes of mutilation, rape and murder. Its most famous moment comes when Tamora the Queen of the Goths is served a pie filled with the cooked flesh of her own sons.
But it was the horrific scenes in which Titus's daughter Lavinia, played by Laura Rees, has her hands cut off and tongue cut out that proved too gruesome for "groundlings", the audience members who stand in the Yard, the area closest to the stage.
One observer told the Evening Standard: "All four fainters were standing in the Yard and went down in the space of about two minutes. It happened after Lavinia comes back on stage and blood comes out of her mouth when she tries to speak. One girl hit her chin on the stage. They were dropping like flies."
A spokesman for the Globe said: "At the height of summer we often have people fainting during performances if they have been exposed to the afternoon sun, or have been standing as a 'groundling' for a long period of time.
"However, we have had a higher level of fainters this year than we normally would experience towards the earlier part of the season, before the height of summer. Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare's more gruesome plays, and audiences should be aware of its graphic nature prior to seeing the play."
The three-hour production, at the open-air theatre next to the Tate Modern on London's South Bank, is directed by Lucy Bailey and stars Douglas Hodge.
It is made all the more claustrophobic by the stage set. The designer, William Dudley, has draped the theatre in a canopy of dark cloth which blocks out the sunlight.