Adena Jacobs will direct Shakespeare’s gory Titus Andronicus for Bell Shakespeare in 2019. The production will be Jacobs’ company debut and the first time that Bell has tackled the early play in its conventional form – it teamed up with Queensland Theatre in 2008 for an adaptation of Titus by Heiner Müller. Jane Montgomery Griffiths, who has worked with Jacobs in the past, is slated to play the title role. The play tells the story of a Roman general whose family becomes the victim of terrible vengeance when he refuses to perform an act of clemency.

Adena Jacobs. Photo © Graham Denholm 

Titus  Andronicus is about a society unable to process its trauma. A society so dehumanised that it derives pleasure through bodily punishment and creates a spectacle of its victims and perpetrators,” Jacobs said. “Titus Andronicus is a nightmare – a grotesque examination of reciprocal violence and histories doomed to repeat themselves.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Adena to the company, and I look forward to experiencing her reimagining of Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy,” Bell Shakespeare’s Artistic Director Peter Evans said. “This is a challenging play, where Shakespeare delves into some of the most unimaginable human  behaviours. With Adena at the helm, this will be the boldly experimental and confronting production audiences of today are hungry for.”

Jane Montgomery Griffiths for Bell Shakespeare. Photo supplied

Jacobs’ most recent high-profile engagement was a staging of English National Opera’s season-opening Salome, which opened in September to decidedly mixed reviews. Her production of Damien Ricketson’s The Howling Girls for Sydney Chamber Opera in March was received much more favourably, with Limelight praising her “visceral staging”. Best known as a theatre director, Jacobs is the Artistic Director of Melbourne-based theatre company Fraught Outfit. Jacobs was Female Director in Residence at Malthouse Theatre in 2012, and was Resident Director at Belvoir St Theatre from 2014–15.

Titus Andronicus is at Sydney Opera House from August 27 – September 27