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Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus
Photograph: Johan Persson

Tom Hiddleston stars in the National Theatre’s free live stream of ‘Coriolanus’ this week

The star of ‘The Night Manager’ and ‘The Avengers’ mires himself in gore

Written by
Chris Waywell

Yep, it’s live-stream Thursday again, people. Amid the understandable doom and gloom of Theatreland, the NT’s series of free live streams has been a real lockdown godsend. And this week they’ve got a proper treat for us, in the form of gaffe-dogged acting superstar Tom Hiddleston having a crack at Shakespeare’s ‘Coriolanus’. 

This Donmar Warehouse production from 2014 stars Hiddleston as the Roman general Coriolanus, a man, in the words of our review at the time, ‘whose martial honour and prefect-ish sense of fair play is fatally spiked by a complete incomprehension of the lower orders’ (Hiddy went to Eton, you know, so he should be well across this type of thing). Josie Rourke directs with aplomb, and it also features TV fave Mark Gatiss as Coriolanus’s mentor Menenius.

‘Coriolanus’ is one of Shakespeare’s last tragedies. With its background of rioting, social unrest and economic inequality, it feels extraordinarily timely. The portrait of a man whose craven desire for power and getting his own way whatever it takes, combined with a complete lack of empathy for the plight of ordinary people, also might ring a few bells. Don’t worry, though. Tom H doesn’t orange-up and don a fright wig for this performance: ‘When he first appears he cuts a dash as a tall, handsome general who storms the gates of an enemy city singlehanded,’ we said. ‘But his looks become marred, first by gore, then by the expression of glee that crosses his face as he cruelly, gratuitously throttles his nemesis Aufidius (Hadley Fraser) after besting him in robust single combat. But the heroic Coriolanus’s total disinterest in the non-elites is made disturbingly obvious. When he begrudges the release of grain to hoodie-wearing civilians who haven’t “earned” it, the spectre of our government’s anti-welfare rhetoric looms disturbingly large.’

Photograph: Johann Persson

So you’ve got the best of both worlds: plenty of action-packed gory stage violence and a cautionary message about how power corrupts in case you were getting too engrossed by the sight of Tom Hiddleston waving his weapon around.

‘Coriolanus’ streams at 7pm BST tonight (Thu Jun 4) on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel for free. It’s available for one week.

See the full list of National Theatre at Home free live-streaming productions. 

And check out all the theatre you can stream online right now.

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