BWW Reviews: CORIOLANUS, The Donmar Warehouse, December 18 2013

One of Shakespeare's lesser performed plays, Coriolanus has exploded into one of the most hyped-up events the Donmar Warehouse has seen this year. Director Josie Rourke's production is visceral and modern from the off, cleverly making what could be an abstract political plotline something to get angry and excited about.

Coriolanus begins with riots in the city of Rome, as citizens react to food stores being withheld for military use. Caius Martius, a tactlessly honest man, yet a brilliant combative general, receives much of the public's anger, until he secures two vast victories for Rome. Following his newfound popularity, Martius (now dubbed "Coriolanus") is persuaded to run for consul by his mother, Volumnia. After effortlessly winning the Roman Senate's support, Coriolanus seems to win over the commoners, but when Brutus and Sicinius stir up another riot against him, Coriolanus rages against the concept of popular rule and is declared a traitor. When banished, Coriolanus retorts that he banishes Rome from his presence. Angered, seeks help at the hands of his and Rome's enemy the Volscians, ultimately aiming to wreak his vengeance on Rome.

Tom Hiddleston portrays the title role with simmering energy and a sometimes painful sincerity. While there is no logical reason why his fame from the Thor films and The Avengers ought to attract audiences which are any larger for Coriolanus than for the Donmar's usual exquisite work, Hiddleston's performance is stunning. He delivers with ease and directness, yet still sucks the linguistic and dramatic potential from every syllable. Volumnia, is played extremely believably by Deborah Findlay and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen crafts a lovely character for Virgilia. Mark Gatiss is also excellent as Menenius.

All in all, this production is hard to fault. While it might be advisable to read a synopsis in order to best understand the story's initial set-up, Rourke uses bold, vibrant devices to bring out key ideas. Her use of Rudi Goodman (as Caius's son) was particularly effective. Goodman displayed dramatic skill beyond his years. A superb ensemble were utilised throughout and Michael Bruce's score compliments and heightens the action efficaciously.

Infinitely articulate and filled with suspense and tension, Coriolanus remains as relevant and gut-wrenching as any of Shakespeare's texts - and here is an eloquent, emotional production of it.

Anger's my meat; I sup upon myself
And so shall starve with feeding.

Coriolanus runs at the Donmar Warehouse until 8th February.

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From This Author Alice Chappell

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