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Dozens Faint During Bloody 'Titus Andronicus' at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Jul 27, 2014 12:08 AM EDT

In the theatre, casualties are supposed to happen on the stage, not in the audience. But a recent, bloody production of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus at the Globe Theatre caused at least 100 people to either faint or leave the theater during the play's run, which ended earlier this month, according to British newspaper The Independent.

Titus Andronicus is known as Shakespeare's bloodiest play. 14 deaths occur in the drama, as well as rape and mutilation. The Globe's production, directed by Lucy Bailey, received many positive reviews, even from a critic who fainted during the performance she was reviewing.

The Independent's Holly Williams wrote: "A confession: I fainted. I'm not alone: audiences are dropping like flies at this revival of Lucy Bailey's infamously gory 2006 staging. So I can't vouch for Act III, scene ii--but if it's anything like the rest of this vivaciously staged, blackly comic and dizzyingly unrestrained production, it was probably exceptional."

The scene she was referring to is the one in which Lavinia staggers onto the stage after being viciously attacked. "The swooning is testament to Flora Spencer-Longhurst's astonishing performance as the raped and butchered Lavinia," Williams wrote.

During this particularly gory scene, an average of "two to four people per performance either fainted or left feeling queasy," said a Globe spokeswoman.

The Independent reported that Lucy Bailey, the director, said: "I find it all rather wonderful. That people can connect so much to the characters and emotion that they have such a visceral effect."

This may be so, but if people are literally sickened by what they see onstage, it seems like the visceral effect is coming more from the blood and gore, and not from the "characters and emotion."

Nick Clark of The Independent said the audience reaction to Titus Andronicus made it "a strong candidate for the most potent show in British history."

Wouldn't it be preferable if that potency came from the actors' interpretations, rather than the gore?

If people are actually fainting, this may be a sign that the blood and gore have gone too far.

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TagsShakespeare's Globe, Globe Theatre, faint, London, Shakespeare, Lucy Bailey, The Independent, Holly Williams, Nick Clark, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Titus Andronicus

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