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“O tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide”: Directing and documenting Titus Andronicus in an all-female adaptation

De Reuck, J. and Miller, K. (2012) “O tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide”: Directing and documenting Titus Andronicus in an all-female adaptation. IM: Interactive Media (8).

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This paper offers a critical evaluation of the challenges we confronted when bringing to the stage in Perth, Western Australia, an all-female production of Titus Andronicus in 2011. Aware of the strengths of a group of professional female actors whose gender denied them the powerful roles of the Shakespearean canon and infused with a vision to showcase the group’s abilities Titus Andronicus was selected for the inaugural performance of H.I.V.E. (Her Infinite Variety Ensemble) Perth’s first all-female performance group.

The director and filmographer of this production revisit the conceptual and visual material that this complex process generated in order to address some of the significant questions it raised about cultural assumptions within audiences that make up the contemporary theatrical community in Western Australia, specifically regarding the production and circulation of the Shakespearean text. We explore the limits and possibilities of performing against conventional notions of gender and power relations when the iconic Shakespearean text is adapted for audiences today.

The exquisite lyricism and dramatic scope of the lines provide a verbal feast for any actor and in the hands (or mouths) of powerful performers, we suggest, gender becomes immaterial. In this adaptation the actors were permitted to play not just ‘the woman’s part’, but the parts, too, that have traditionally been denied them. The challenges of this experiment in transgressing the conventional boundaries of performance revealed some disturbingly entrenched parameters within which the actors were ostensibly constrained; nevertheless, as this paper demonstrates, the liberating potential of the ensemble’s work allowed for a reinvention of (and refocussing upon) the brutality and violence of the dramatic world of this play. The outcomes endorse the view of the “infinite variety” of the Shakespearean text: a fitting insight for the ensemble’s inaugural production.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: National Academy of Screen and Sound
Copyright: © 2012 IM/NASS
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