Director: Josie Rourke
Writer: William Shakespeare
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Mark Gatiss, Deborah Findlay, Hadley Fraser, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Alfie Enoch, Jaqueline Boatswain, Peter De Jersey, Elliot Levey, Helen Schlesinger
[Somehow I managed to not review this. Don’t ask me how. But better late than never.]
Caius Martius (Tom Hiddleston) is a celebrated general, even though he is not particularly popular with the people of Rome who are starving because the rations go to the military instead of them. Caius Martius fights his blood-enemy Aufidius (Hadley Fraser) in Corioles and is victorious, which gives him enough leverage to run for consul. Even though Caius Martius isn’t completely sold on the idea, his mother (Deborah Findlay) pressures him and he finally caves. But not everyone is a fan of Caius Martius and he quickly finds himself in trouble.
This is a great Coriolanus version. An excellent cast in an interesting set that makes the play shine. Not everything worked for me but it was always interesting to watch.
Josie Rourke approached this play rather minimalistically. There are practically no props. The cast is small and the supporting cast takes on several roles (with switching allegiances). This could have been confusing but it never is – you always know exactly what group everybody belongs to at that moment. Which is brilliant.
What is less brilliant was the way scene transitions were handled. Rourke decided to just let the actors walk around on stage between scenes while the few props in use were set up and that just felt weird and not in tune with the rest of the play.
But those scene transitions are pretty much my only complaint about the production. I now have a whole new appreciation for the play after the movie wasn’t that much my thing (though it might have done a better job dissecting the relationship between Coriolanus and Aufidius) because Rourke hits not only the serious tragic notes, but also the funny ones. And she, Birgitte Hjort-Sørensen and Deborah Findlay gave a whole new life to both Volumnia and Virgilia.
The cast was generally excellent but it probably comes to no surprise that Tom Hiddleston is not only the nominal lead of the play but its absolut star (and not only because ther was some nice female gazing going on. One of the reason why we need more female directors) – and rightly so. He gave me goosebumps several times and he really gets everything from Coriolanus that there is to get. You just have to lean back and enjoy watching him work.
Summarizing: an interesting play in a fantastic production.