The knives and pretty much everything else are out in this radical reboot of what is probably Shakespeare's bloodiest tragedy, in which a Roman general returns home to a leaderless state, only to have his human trophy Tamora, Queen of the Goths, take control as she marries into royalty and ushers in an increasingly pointless series of tit for tat killings. In outgoing Dundee Rep director Philip Howard's version, brought stunningly to life by director and designer Stewart Laing, 'Rome' becomes the sort of voguish open-plan restaurant beloved of European cities and fans of urban regeneration.
Into this environment, built magnificently into Dundee Rep's rarely used Bonar Hall space, the audience become the hungry diners sat at long wooden tables witnessing a political system in meltdown as a portraits of former demagogues line the wall. As assorted kitchen staff from all factions neck shots and dance on tables to JD Twitch's pumping techno soundtrack, at first what looks looks like after-hours fun for minimum wage slaves gets seriously out of hand. As Tamora's sons rape Titus' daughter Lavinia, hands are chopped off, tongues cut out and corpses piled into a wheelie bin along with the bin bags and empty bottles in a way that suggests that's just for starters.
Co-produced by Dundee Rep Ensemble and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Howard and Laing's version puts some of the play's goriest excesses on film, beamed onto the wall like mobile phone shot snuff movies shared on YouTube. In the title role, George Anton thunders with wounded pride as a largely young cast rage with fury as the body-count rises in a brilliantly brutal display. When in Rome indeed.
The Herald, April 13th 2015ends