Coriolanus

Before I start the whinging, Coriolanus yesterday was excellent – well, as excellent as Coriolanus, which is a difficult and challenging and ultimately unsatisfying play can be. It’s one of those plays that has cropped up over and over again in my literary life, and not one I’ve grown fonder of over the years.

As it is a play I’ve been required to study, I’ve seen several versions of it on stage. All long, all tedious and all with ‘deep’ political meaning.  Mostly this means a lot of shouting and gratuitous amounts of beret wearing.

This one, however, had nary a beret in sight.

Although, of course, there were political statements aplenty.

Things I liked:

It’s a ruddy long play, but it flew by.  The action belted along at a fair old clip and I found myself immersed in the play rather than cursing the seats, the lateness of the hour and the tedium.

The acting was good.  As an ensemble piece I found it pretty hard to criticise.  There were no weak parts, and full marks to Volumnia (Coriolanus’ mum) and Vergilia (his wife), for acting the socks off the parts they were given. It’s nice to see women acting the hell out of Shakespeare.  I also liked that one of the tribunes of the people was a women, and the relationship with her fellow tribune became all the more interesting because of it.

Mark Gatiss was superb as Menenius, Coriolanus’ friend and political advisor. He brought what can be a rather dull, pompous character to life and gave him a real sense of charm and dignity.

Tom Hiddlestone was great.  Andrea thought his diction was a bit off in places.  I can’t say I noticed that over much.  He was believable, and made the humanity of what is essentially a pretty inhumane character, sing out.  He made you care about what happened to him, which is pretty good going.  Usually I can’t wait for his demise.

The humour. It’s not something I’ve really associated with Coriolanus before, but there were times when the delivery of a line really, really made me laugh. This has literally never happened before with this play, so top marks there.

I find, as I grow older (by the second) that I thoroughly enjoy plays that are really pared down in terms of staging. The less props and scenery there are, the more the acting has to stand and fall on its own merits.  This Coriolanus was staged at the Donmar Warehouse, somewhere I’ve never seen a play before, although I’d love to. It only has 251 seats, so you have to be quick to get tickets, and I’m just not quick enough.  The stage is a bare, concrete square. The backdrop here was just the brick wall of the back of the building. There was a ladder in the centre of the stage at the back, a few chairs, some interesting lighting techniques, and that was it.  It really worked.

So, I stayed awake for the whole play, and the three hours sped by.

Unfortunately the rest of the weekend didn’t go so smoothly. I was ill for most of Saturday.  I attempted to take the children out for a bit, but felt so ill by the end of it, the man at the supermarket check out actually patted me on the arm I looked so ghastly as we left.

I have spent the rest of the weekend either in bed, or sleeping on the sofa or feeling ghastly and wishing I could go to sleep.

This is no way to be, for me, or Jason, or the children.

Back to the Dr I go.

2 responses to “Coriolanus

  1. Forgive me, am slightly confused – did you see this at the cinema? Or at the proper theatre? I believe the Beeb are going to/have filmed it so will look forward to seeing it on the box.

  2. It was an NT Live event. So they film the live theatre as it happens and you go to the cinema to see it. I saw it at our local arts cinema. They might reshow it at some point, so well worth keeping your ear to the ground. NT Live is a marvellous thing. They’re reshowing War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time soon. Both highly recommended. Particularly Curious Incident.

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