Freedman's 1967 Titus Andronicus
GERALD FREEDMAN: In Titus Andronicus, when I was invited to direct that at the New York Shakespeare Festival, I thought, this is all about Grand Guignol. You know, very bloody, and the idea is to strike horror and, if you will, revulsion and terror in the audience. Like the Halloween movies, you know, kind of thing. But the tradition then is to have a lot of artificial blood on stage, there's plenty of it in Titus, I mean plenty of occasion for it.
But I was asked to do it during the Vietnam War when the nightly newscasts had real blood. I mean people seeing blood spurting out of people's heads, people lying on the ground with limbs chopped off. I thought, well, this is ridiculous, you can't pretend to do that, so I abstracted it. I did it in metaphorical ways, using masks, for instance—half masks, and material—colored cloth, for instance, to indicate death or bleeding. And it was shocking because what it allowed the audience to do was bring their imagination to the process. It was more horrible than bringing on a fake papier maché head with entrails—you know, rags dripping from the neck or something like that.
As a matter of fact, in the production Titus has two of his children's heads brought to him on a tray or something, whatever, to say "hey, this is your payback." Because I had been using half masks, I brought on half masks on the tray and Walter Kerr, who was a famous critic at that time, noted that the audience gasped when the masks came on because they had so associated imaginatively those masks with the character, it was more frightening than if you brought in a fake head. Okay, that was one way of doing it, and I abstracted it in order to create more horror, not less.