Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus at London's Donmar Warehouse, December 2013

‘A lean, swift & feisty political thriller’: CORIOLANUS – Donmar Warehouse (Online review)

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On YouTube – National Theatre at Home

To take a play as epic in scale as Coriolanus and find a natural home within the intimacy of London’s Donmar Warehouse takes a skill and lightness of touch that is not only rare but all so often missed. Open a copy of the play at any page and you can hear the sound and fury of Ancient Rome. Director Josie Rourke has sliced through a lot of the sound and most of the fury to get to the very heart of Shakespeare’s tragedy.

Battle lines are drawn from the beginning as Tom Hiddleston‘s Caius Marcius is elevated from warrior to statesman via his persuasive mother. Never having the ‘popular’ vote in Rome and turning his back on vengeance and his allegiance with the Volscians, Coriolanus’s downfall is swift.

Whilst there is still a fair share of testosterone turned up to eleven, Rourke has taken a broadsword to the script and deftly crafted a lean, swift and feisty political thriller out of Shakespeare’s overblown Roman spectacle. In addition, Hiddleston slips into the armour of the Roman Emperor effortlessly. His arrogance, charm, swagger and rarely seen vulnerability are all on show, as is his athletic prowess around the Donmar stage.

In lesser productions, you’d be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t a female role of note. That thought is quickly put out to pasture thanks to Deborah Findlay‘s powerhouse performance as Caius Marcius’s mother Volumnia. Her command of the stage, as well as her son, is the driving force in the early stages of the production, and her maternal desire for her son to step down near the end is heartbreaking.

Rourke has also gleaned humour from this production, often in the shape of Mark Gatiss‘s Menenius. Whether it be words of wisdom or a thrown-away thought, the adaptation is powered by sharp wit and quick thinking.

Alongside Lucy Osbourne’s intelligent design that lends itself to swift transitions, grand-scale orations and intimate interactions, this is Josie Rourke‘s Coriolanus: a triumph of vision and theatricality.

Coriolanus is available to watch on The National Theatre‘s YouTube channel until 11 June

Originally published on Broadway World.

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Shane Morgan
Shane Morgan is a writer, director, producer and facilitator. He trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and completed an MA at Chichester University. He is Director of RoughHouse Theatre and Associate Director of the Rondo Theatre, Bath. His writing work includes stage adaptations of the Nick Hornby short story NippleJesus and the Daniel Wallace novel Mr Sebastian and the Negro Magician under the title Henry Walker and the Wheel of Death. As director, his credits include The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Hands Up For Jonny Wilkinson’s Right Boot and When The Eye Has Gone. In addition to his personal blog, Shane reviews theatre and comedy for Bristol 24/7 and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Bristol. He tweets at MrShaneMorgan.
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Shane Morgan on RssShane Morgan on Twitter
Shane Morgan
Shane Morgan is a writer, director, producer and facilitator. He trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and completed an MA at Chichester University. He is Director of RoughHouse Theatre and Associate Director of the Rondo Theatre, Bath. His writing work includes stage adaptations of the Nick Hornby short story NippleJesus and the Daniel Wallace novel Mr Sebastian and the Negro Magician under the title Henry Walker and the Wheel of Death. As director, his credits include The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Hands Up For Jonny Wilkinson’s Right Boot and When The Eye Has Gone. In addition to his personal blog, Shane reviews theatre and comedy for Bristol 24/7 and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Bristol. He tweets at MrShaneMorgan.

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