Review Roundup: CORIOLANUS Opens at the Donmar Warehouse- UPDATED

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Review Roundup: CORIOLANUS Opens at the Donmar Warehouse- UPDATED
Tom Hiddleston in CORIOLANUS. Photo by Johan Persson.

London's Donmar Warehouse presents CORIOLANUS, running now through February 8, 2014. Josie Rourke directs Shakespeare's searing tragedy of political manipulation and revenge, with Tom Hiddleston making his return to the Donmar in the title role.

When an old adversary threatens Rome, the city calls once more on her hero and defender: Coriolanus. But famine threatens the city, the citizens' hunger swells to an appetite for change, and on returning from the field Coriolanus must confront the march of realpolitik and the voice of an angry people.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Michael Billington, The Guardian: A chamber production of Coriolanus? It sounds a contradiction in terms. But, as the programme points out, Shakespeare's epic Roman play was probably first staged in the small-scale Blackfriars theatre. Josie Rourke also uses the Donmar's intimacy to come up with a fast, witty, intelligent production that in Tom Hiddleston boasts a fine Coriolanus. Even if I have a few niggles, this is a thoroughly good evening.

Charles Spencer, The Telegraph: At every stage of his tragic journey, Hiddleston is compelling and persuasive, and there is fine support, especially from Deborah Findlay as the vicious old boot of a mother who has made him the man he is; Mark Gatiss as the wily, patrician, Menenius; and Elliot Levey and Helen Schlesinger as the manipulative tribunes of the people. As Aufidius, the Volscian general who becomes Coriolanus's nemesis, Hadley Fraser rather overplays the hearty northern accent and his character's homoerotic feelings for his adversary. But though this is a flawed production, there is no mistaking its dramatic energy, while the mixture of charisma and emotional truth in Hiddleston's performance is very special indeed.

David Benedict, Variety: Making enthralling theater out of one of Shakespeare's best-known titles is one thing. It's an achievement of an altogether higher order to take the austerely forbidding "Coriolanus" - an argumentative tragedy discussing the demands of politics and the power of the people - and turn it into a theatrical triumph. But that's exactly what Donmar Warehouse a.d. Josie Rourke has done. Thanks to an ideally dovetailed ensemble led by a scorching Tom Hiddleston, tension builds, fills the theater and never flags throughout an all-consuming evening.

Annabel Brog, ELLE: Tom Hiddleston's return to Shakespeare in Josie Rourke's Coriolanus at London's Donmar Warehouse is as violent, hungry and driven as the eponymous hero of the work...Coriolanus is Shakespeare's most under-rated play, and yet it is one of his most relevant to the world we live in today. A production like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Quentin Letts, The Daily Mail: This is a boutique Coriolanus in both senses of 'boutique' - ie, small in scale, and overly impressed by fashion. Its quite numerous good points are diminished by silly directorial touches from Josie Rourke, not least the Brechtian use of a line of chairs along the back wall on which actors sit in full view of the audience when they are not in a scene...Mr Hiddleston is perhaps a little too smooth, with too light a voice and too vain an awareness of his hair gel, to convince as a soldiers' soldier.

Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage: The first image is that of Young Martius (Joe Willis on opening night) drawing a circle of blood, presaging the game he later joins with a toy sword. There's nothing jokey, though, about the first citizen's (Rochenda Sandall) angry tirade. And what follows suggests that Hiddleston's Coriolanus sees himself as a supple, super-confident games player, rather than a professional, proactive man-of-war (in the style of Ian McKellen, say, or Toby Stephens). It's an original, and disturbing, interpretation, almost an alternative commentary on the brilliant Ralph Fiennes movie.

Paul Taylor, The Independent: In her finest achievement to date as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse, Josie Rourke directs this stark, swiftly-paced account of Shakespeare's severe Roman play and elicits a central performance of blazing stellar power and intelligence from Tom Hiddleston. Her remarkably resourceful production capitalises on the intimacy of the space to give the epic proceedings a shocking visceral immediacy. The staging is simple but highly effective with the battle scenes conjured up by the ingenious, nerve-shredding use of ladders, chairs and fire bombs.

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: A few scenes are underpowered, but this is a tense and thoughtful account of one of Shakespeare's less admired works. With a stark and highly effective design by Lucy Osborne, it's an intimate interpretation of a play that tends to be staged on a grand scale. It feels satisfyingly fresh - and will be broadcast to 300 cinemas in the UK on January 30, vastly extending the number of people who will get to see it.

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