Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s plays with which I was not previously familiar. So in anticipation of this National Theatre Encore Screening, I made a point of reading the text. I’ve discovered that when I’m not forced to read Shakespeare because I’m later being tested, I actually enjoy it! Reading without the stress = a lovely time.
With thanks to some of the contemporary artists who are now making these plays more accessible to the lay-person (i.e. me!), and no doubt my (slightly) advanced age; I’m both interested and excited by both Shakespeare and literary prose. It’s been a while since I was at school, and all I remember from back then was it taking forever to get through the text, and not understanding a word. So my thanks goes to Joss Whedon (for Much Ado About Nothing), the BBC for The Hollow Crown and for the David Tennant version of Hamlet, Tom Hiddleston & Mark Gatiss (for being in this one!), and Benedict Cumberbatch for the latest production of Hamlet at the Barbican (I have tickets for later this month!).
I was intrigued to find out how relevant the story of Coriolanus is to us today. Politics and politicians have been two-faced and back-stabbing for millennia, it seems. So far, so obvious.
Coriolanus is a character who remains true to himself throughout the whole story. He will not compromise for anything, nor anyone. This is a sign of both his strength of character, his stubbornness, and ultimately causes his downfall. Winning at war is very different from winning in politics. You need very different skills. Coriolanus will either learn to play this new game – or he will not. Guess which outcome is more likely!
With such an epic story to tell, it was brilliant to see the extremely efficient use of space. The Donmar Warehouse stage is very very small. The audience is right on top of the action. And for a certain scene, the fake blood was all over the audience! Which made me chuckle – because I was at the Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre watching a recording, not getting covered in it myself; but at the same time that scene was difficult to watch as Tom Hiddleston played the intense pain felt by Marcius from his injuries.
All in all, this was an excellent play. Very well directed, brilliantly acted, and very cleverly constructed. A round of applause to all who were involved.