Josie Rourke’s gripping and compelling production is mesmerising to watch as Coriolanus’s downfall is slowly unveiled.
Goodness what an intense and powerful production of Shakespeare’s tragedy this is. From start to finish, this Donmar Warehouse production directed by Josie Rourke keeps audiences on the edge of their seat with every twist and turn.
Returning from war, Coriolanus is transformed from war hero to statesman but his disdain and arrogance means that he is unable to win the people’s vote and so is banished from Rome and leads to his downfall. In every speech and scene of this 2014 production, the audience is able to see the increasingly sizeable cracks of this immensely flawed hero’s life.
But it has to be said that this Shakespeare play is somewhat frustrating to watch, needing some time to fully comprehend exactly what is going on and unpick the plot. Yet despite this, thanks to the intimacy of the Donmar Warehouse and Lucy Osborne’s sharply contemporary set design it is possible to feel the play’s intensity and passion that makes it compelling to watch in terms of performances.
The themes of betrayal and revenge are also portrayed vividly, with the final scenes proving to be the most profound and offers an unexpected twist in the character of Coriolanus that makes the audience feel the tragedy of the situation sharply. But Rourke also captures the way in which it is also a play that is about dissecting the character of Coriolanus by revealing how he is seen by the other characters reflected in the stripped back staging.
Ultimately though, this is a production that is very much about the performances – and what a cast it is. Leading the way as Coriolanus, Tom Hiddleston offers a strong and commanding performance highlighting the complexities and intricacies of his personality that ultimately lead him to tragedy. Elsewhere, Hadley Fraser offers an engagingly powerful performance as Aufidius, with his scenes with Coriolanus proving to be particular highlights, while Mark Gatiss as Menenius manages to draw out some humour and charm through his performance.
In such a testosterone filled play, it is perhaps no surprise that the female characters are perhaps less well created. However, this being said there is still a very magnetic and emotionally raw performance from Deborah Findlay as Volumnia.. The way in which she drags every bit of feeling in her speech begging Coriolanus not to attack Rome is heart wrenching to watch.
This is a sleek and slow-burningly powerful production that draws out every possible emotion possible to create a compelling piece of theatre.
By Emma Clarendon
Coriolanus is available to watch here until the 11th June.