Coriolanus review

Theatre, Shakespeare
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Rising star Sope Dirisu plays the eponymous arrogant general in the RSC's solid production

Shakespeare's Roman play 'Coriolanus' is a story of arrogant rulers, drawn from a narrow social elite. They play lip service to the ordinary people they govern, while barely hiding their disdain. Sound familiar? Disappointingly, Angus Jackson's production for the RSC sidesteps contemporary parallels by casting rising star Sope Dirisu as the titular general.

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.

By: Alice Saville

Posted:

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tastemaker

An epic portrayal of an epic saga. The performance starts off with a bang with a cast of rebels flooding the stage and banging against the iron gates. The thumps and clamor immediately grips your attention till the very last minute. It is a beautifully curated story of politics, warriors and relationships. It is a story of a great warrior, who may not be a great leader.


The performance of the entire cast is spellbinding, but a special mention must be made to Haydn Gwynne for her enigmatic portrayal of Volumnia.


Coriolanus is one of the last tragedies written by Shakespeare and while the production may be lengthy, it is a must-see if you are a Shakespeare fan.

tastemaker

Following the ascent of a potential tyrant with no regard for the law or the public he serves, Angus Jackson's production of 'Coriolanus' is eerily relevant and engrossing, with some excellent central performances. 


Sope Dirisu is imperious as the eponymous antihero, exploding with violent rage when provoked and derisively mocking those that challenge him. James Corrigan, Paul Jesson, Martina Laird and Jackie Morrison form a strong supporting cast, however, special mention must go to Haydn Gwynne for her entrancing portrayal of Volumnia, particularly in the final act.


Whilst a lesser-known Shakespeare text, this production feels very timely as highlighted by the murmurs of recognition heard in the auditorium throughout. Political uncertainty, despotic leaders, social division and the role of masculinity are brought centre stage by Jackson's nuanced direction. Whilst it may run a little long, there is much to praise in this production and its interpretation of this classic play.