Coriolanus**** (Donmar Warehouse, 24 January 2014)

Posted: January 27, 2014 in Theatre

Coriolanus Photo by Johan Persson 3Having always struggled with Shakespeare’s Roman plays, I approached this with some trepidation, but, knowing that £2,500 was being asked on the internet for a pair of tickets, I felt an obligation to attend. The inflated price is largely due to a film actor, Tom Hiddleston, taking the title role, but Josie Rourke’s vivid and lucid interpretation has far more to offer than just star casting and is packed with current relevance. A Shakespeare play about power politics with a dystopian urban setting, it reminds a little of Jamie Lloyd’s Macbeth, seen in London a few months ago. Not time specific, the whole production has a modern urban feel with graffiti staining the rear wall and Coriolanus going into exile dressed in a hoody. Pyrotechnics enliven a battle scene and there are several unforgettable images of violence, but, overall, this version of the play is intimate more than epic, putting it across strongly as a political thriller. Coriolanus is a successful military leader who, when crossing into politics, lacks the tact and diplomacy to win over the populace in Rome’s burgeoning democracy. He is the sort of man who, in the present day, would need a swift media make-over. It is a big ask of a charismatic movie star to convince as an uncharismatic politician and, Hiddleston, younger than the role is usually cast, looks more a Blair than a Brown. However, he does well and is eclipsed only by Deborah Findlay’s powerfully impassioned Volumnia. Josie Rourke’s reign at the Donmar at last seems to be getting into its stride.

photo: Johan Persson

 

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