Titus Andonicus by the Headgate Theatre Company

Possibly one of Shakespeare’s goriest plays, if not THE goriest, it’s a challenge for any company to stage its fights, hangings, beheadings and that terrifying conclusion.

If you don’t know it, revenge is a dish best served at room temperature and under a tasty pie crust.

All hail this wonderful production from Headgate Theatre, stripped down, tense, gripping and performed by a superb ensemble.

The noose hanging over the set from the beginning of the play, and the soldiers who watch you enter the auditorium set the tone for a classic theatre experience.

Director Andrew Hodgson has a clear grip on his vision in this modern dress production, and entrusts his cast to deliver the goods, there’s not a weak link among them.

Michael Cook is a fine Titus, his errors of judgement allowing his enemies to be free and commit terrible acts against his children.

As the mother of his enemies, Jackie Grant is a chilling Tamora, calm in her enjoyment of the wreckage she causes.

Stealing the show are George Deadman and Rowan Donaldson as her sons Demetrius and Chiron, skinhead brothers who embody evil, and Mark West is a threatening presence in that gang too.

As Lavinia, who suffers terrible abuse, Shannon Quinn is an ethereal presence, whether as a bride or then a handless, tongue less vision, she is mesmerising. Good performances abound, and the text speaking is on point throughout.

Considered Shakespeare’s first tragedy, we see a playwright aiming to up the stakes and bring horrifying violence to the stage.

The truth is, and a fact that this production makes, is that we are seeing worse on the news daily. It may not be the easiest play to watch, but it’s a satisfying watch, better than some professional productions I’ve seen recently. Outstanding.