Took Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to the light-hearted romantic comedy that is Titus Andronicus.
Titus Andronicus is Shakespeare's revenge-fuelled blood-and-gore fest. Entrails, severed limbs, bloodied heads, and piles of corpses. With rape. And the eating of one's offspring in a delicious pie.
I did pause before taking my 13-year old gritties jnrs to see this one, true, because I am a parent who feels a responsibility towards the delicacies of my children.
I don't want to give them any more ideas about murder, mayhem or pyrotechnics than they already have. But I also set myself this ridiculous challenge. To see every Shakespeare play before they finish statutory education to age 16*.
But Shakespeare helped, with the winning direction of Michael Fentiman, who finds the jokes, the absurdities, and the moments of now-I-am-laughing (even though I shouldn't).
I loved the intimacy of the Andronicus family seated round the breakfast table, half clad in jimmie jams and bringing to the dissection of the fly all the horrible foreboding of what is to come. I loved the pitch-perfect Andronicus in all his movements, tapping the silver bowl to bleed the boys, later dressed like a waitress so we can be disgusted but against ourselves laughing at the vengeful dish he's serving. I loved all of Aaron, who was so delightfully, wickedly, stage villain, yet touchingly a father.
In the final moment, we watched Andronicus Junior, silently upon the stage, menacingly hold both babe and pie slicer. He looked from one to the other, and so did we. Lifted from our genre of horror films where endings of unfinished
business are always left hanging to begin the crowd-pulling sequel, I inevitably thought ahead to the start point of Titus Andronicus II when the junior is a full-grown general determined to complete the blood-grudge begun by some new casual cause.
Afterwards, out in the bright sunlight, I cautiously asked questions of Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, to check whether I had sent them mad, unhinged their heads, or dented their tender souls. I do not think so. Helping was the fact that all the actors stood up for afterwards while we applauded, and we toured the costume exhibition to discover how many laundry loads the running wardrobe team must do after the final dinner scene. (For cleaning of blood and pie: all dinner jackets plus 12 loads of industrial size washing; 6 baskets for hand-washing; 4 baskets of shoes.)
For now, I am glad we went, and I can only recommend it to other hardy teens and their parents. But if my delicate children at some point turn bonkers, we will all know the reason why.
*I have sadly missed the moments to grab tickets for either Tennant as Richard II or Hiddleston as Coriolanus, so if anyone has four tickets they would charitably like to donate to the gritty cause, please feel free.