Got the stomach for Titus Andronicus?

The Globe’s production is so gory that a team of first-aiders is on hand for the fainting fits. Oscar Quine dared to attend

With 14 murders, mutilation and a final scene in which revenge is served to a mother as a pie containing the flesh of her two sons, Titus Andronicus is arguably Shakespeare’s bloodiest play.

But a staging at The Globe theatre in London is proving too much, even for a modern audience supposedly desensitised by computer game violence and video nasties.

Reports of faintings, nauseous episodes and sleepless nights have seen Lucy Bailey’s production become one of the venue’s most talked-about shows of all time, leaving The Independent no choice but to see how much could be stomached.

After an intense opening 20 minutes of drumbeat and billowing smoke, Lavinia, played by Flora Spencer-Longhurst, stumbles on-stage, hands hacked off and tongue cut out. As she implores the audience with her blood-drenched stumps, there is a ripple as one person, then another falls to the ground. One of the first “droppers” is Nicolas Bausson, a 23-year-old student living in London.

“I’ve never passed out at a film or performance before,” he says outside, sat in a wheelchair next to a sick bowl. “But I’m not really comfortable with blood. To imagine what had happened to her [Lavinia]… It’s very disturbing.”

His companion, Clemence Nouaille, 23, was unable to watch the gory scenes. “I knew it was violent but I didn’t think it would be that realistic,” she said. “I hoped I wouldn’t vomit.”

In the interval – after the bagged-up heads of two of Titus’ sons have been plonked centre stage – the lobby buzzes with people’s reactions.

“One guy went down in front of me and I thought he must be joking,” says Simon Curtis, 38, a nurse from London. “Then I felt a hand on my shoulder and the guy next to me had taken a turn.”

There’s little respite in the second half, which begins with the slicing open of Titus’s elderly brother’s forehead and culminates with a double execution, the graphic murder of the Roman Empress Tamora – and the serving of that pie.

The production by Lucy Bailey, first staged in 2006, has been heralded for its ability to immerse the audience, with much of the action happening on the theatre floor. “What excited us about The Globe is that it’s an arena,” Bailey says. “My starting point was that the groundling yard is like a pit of blood – and we wanted to add more blood.”

By the end of the performance, another audience member, Georgina Hope, 28, an actress from London, was wiping away tears. “I felt sick most of the time. It was the gore and the commitment of the performers. You feel part of it, they really get you involved,” she said.

For the fainters, a team of dedicated first-aiders is on hand. One of them, Judy Grimshaw, 58, said five or six people had to be helped out of the theatre before the interval. But, she added, fainting isn’t uncommon at The Globe.

“This is extreme because of the blood. But it’s very rare to have a performance where we don’t have somebody come out. A lot of people come to The Globe after they’ve been out all day. They’re tired, they haven’t eaten properly, they’re dehydrated – and then they stand up for three hours.”

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living