Andronicus Synecdoche - Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Song of the Goat Theatre (Teatr Pieśń Kozła) is one of the leading avant-garde theatres, inspired by the thought and work of Jerzy Grotowski. It is a privilege and a surprise to finally see the work this year. With the company’s focus on the darker aspects of human existence this work resonates frighteningly given the ongoing war(s) in Europe.
Established in 1996 by Grzegorz Bral and Anna Zubrzycki, Song of the Goat Theatre has an international reputation as one of Europe’s most innovative training-based theatre companies, committed to researching what makes theatre distinctive among other art-forms. From its base in Wroclaw, Poland, the Company constantly develops its approaches and performances with the aim of unlocking theatre’s power to offer audiences a profound experience that can reaffirm their own sensitivity and humanity. Song of the Goat Theatre’s ever-evolving training, rehearsal and performance process is treated as laboratories, enabling the Company to research the craft of the actor and director and to develop new techniques, performance languages and work styles. A distinctive element of the Company’s practice is a search for connection, meeting, and openness as the seeds of authentic experience. This commitment to connection creates clarity around the development of each new training approach, which always seeks to integrate movement, voice, song, and text, creating performance that has an inherent musicality and connects with the audience on a sensory level.
“Andronicus Synecdoche” is Song of the Goat Theatre inspired by Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus”, featuring original text and music which depict retaliation’s extreme cruelty. I guess you would call this a multi-disciplinary adaptation. “Andronicus Synecdoche” distils the brutal violence of the original text. The large cast of 14 work as a brilliant ensemble with folk instrumentals and choral music (a highlight), physical theatre and text in English and Polish. The lyrics and new text are projected for the audience and cast speak Shakespeare’s original text. It’s all tricky to follow and helpful if you know the bones of the Shakespearean story. “Titus Andronicus” is arguably Shakespeare's most violent play. In Song of the Goat's version, condensing it to just over an hour concentrates its violence and brings the women characters to the fore. It’s bleak as a meditation on sexual violence with the ravaged Lavina bearing the brunt of literally and metaphorically state sanctioned violence against women.
Severe choreography and all-black costumes create a sense of unrelenting brutality. I found the staging awkward at times with main action happening towards the back of the stage. There is no denying the discipline within the company and the integration of music and movement is very fine. The challenge of “Andronicus Synecdoche” – and one that has been mentioned in reviews everywhere - is that a character, Aaron, is a white actor, though often referred to as black. It was downright confusing as I expected this company – who depict of other kinds of systemic violence with sensitivity and power – to be aware and responsible for presenting intersectionality with intelligence. This intellectual confusion and the unremitting images violence had me turning off to the story and pleased that the work was a swift 75 minutes.