Rising star Sope Dirisu plays the eponymous arrogant general in the RSC's solid production
Dirisu's Coriolanus is less sneering, bouffant posho, more a young, misunderstood bravura fighter who's uncomfortable with the hypocrisies of politics. This choice slightly destabilises the story's thrust – this is a man who's meant to be so proud, so unpleasant, that he'll destroy Rome. He's totally at home in the play's furious battle scenes, though, where the stage becomes a mass of blood-slicked, writhing bodies.
It's a production that's built around artful clashes of violence and elegance. In scenes of marble-floored sterility, Coriolanus's power-hungry mother Volumnia (a sleekly persuasive Hadyn Gwynne) coaxes her son away from his meek wife, and out to battle. Then as fighting breaks out, it's back to the abattoir, and the gory foundations that Coriolanus's power is built on.
Still, the transitions between these scenes feel clunky, unhelped by cumbersome set design and a cheesy soundtrack of strings and warbled arpeggios. And even though the RSC's impressive ensemble fills the stage, the scenes of popular uprising never ignite. These are meant to be furious, betrayed people – instead, their protests are about as rousing as a Post Office queue. Their limpness is typical of this ambitious production, one that's heavy on blood-soaked spectacle, but light on political insight.