I got a text just before we arrived at Circle Cinema for the Nation Theatre Live broadcast of Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston as Caius Martius Coriolanus and Mark Gatiss as Menenius. “It’s packed already,” the text read. Truthfully, I wondered how my friend defined “packed”. Every show I’d seen to that point had filled maybe half the theater, so I couldn’t figure out why she was worried. Then, I walked into the door. The line to enter the theater snaked around the corner, through the gallery, and nearly out the back door…hmmm. Maybe I was wrong to doubt my dear friend. (Sorry about that!) It was definitely packed. Fortunately, we had already purchased tickets, so I picked them up and we joined the crowd. The theater was filled. As the play began, people were still searching for seats. It brought joy to my geeky literary heart that so many had turned out for Shakespeare. I’ve been looking forward to this event for…a while, and it was worth the wait. Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s later plays, and it is one that I hadn’t read or seen before the broadcast. Considering how much I love Shakespeare, that alone would have made the evening a success. With a cast such as this, there was no doubt in my mind that it would be an outstanding performance, and I was right. This production was at the Donmar Warehouse, in London’s West End. The Donmar is a converted banana ripening facility, so it offers a rather unique space for the production of a play. With limited space, and therefor stage settings, the use of the walls became essential, and the actors really become the focus. I love watching Shakespeare performed, because his humor, and sometimes snarkiness, don’t always translate as well on the page. The beauty of the language really shines through when you can see and hear everything. When actors are hurling words across the stage, sound and rhythm of the language impact mood and pacing of the story as much as anything else. Watching the characters, language, and story come to life on the stage permits me to experience well-loved, worn out volumes with fresh eyes. I knew this would be a great performance going in, but this cast still blew me away. http://youtu.be/2VA3ZSaC2nU In Tom Hiddleston’s performance as the main character, I saw not only a great warrior who was a terrible politician, but also a man who spoke from his heart, didn’t see any need for prevarication or deception, and no reason to sugar coat the truth. Caius Martius isn’t someone who’s easy to like, his arrogance and surety that there are people meant to rule and others meant to be ruled is off-putting, to say the least. He makes comments about the common people comparing them to measles and remarking that they stink. Hiddleston’s performance takes him beyond that into a character that has shining moments of humility and caring scattered through…you know, like a real person. Caius Martius Coriolanus was a man who loved his mother, wife, and child, and wanted to make them proud. You end up pulling for this guy, even as part of you wonders if you should. Menenius, played by Mark Gatiss, probably came out on top as my favorite character in this play. Menenius battles as skillfully with wit and humor as Coriolanus does with muscle and sword. Gatiss’s skill at playing the intellectual politician is evident to anyone who has ever seen Mycroft in the BBC’s Sherlock, but Menenius uses humor and warmth to defuse rising tensions and utilizes sentiment as readily as intellect. Watching Gatiss’s Menenius deflate overblown egos with a handful of well placed words and a smile, wielding his scarf almost as both a prop and weapon is a joy. Aufidius, the general of the opposing army, played by Hadley Fraser impressed me as a character as well. Aufidius and Caius Martius met in battle several times, each time Martius emerged victorious. Aufidius wants nothing more than to defeat this enemy, and swears he would kill him while he was sleeping if the opportunity presented itself. However, when Caius Martius Coriolanus is banished from Rome he makes his way to Aufidius’s home. Fraser’s character accepts Coriolanus’s offer of service to his former enemy. There is so much I loved about that scene. The bending of Martius’s stiff pride to ask for help, and putting his life in the hands of his enemy. Aufidius’s final acceptance of the offer…these actors! Can I go again? http://youtu.be/1d30XZhnRWs The theater at Circle Cinema was filled with my kind of people. Shakespeare, Sherlock, and Loki fans alike were out in force, and it made my geeky heart grow three sizes bigger. I overheard mentions of Loki and Mycroft all over the place. Both Hiddleston and Gatiss got a cheer during the opening interviews with cast members and directors. Some people even drove 5 1/2 hours just to see the performance, and this was a friendly bunch who struck up conversations with strangers. (Other people do it too. It isn’t just me!) The whole evening felt like it was spent in a theater packed with friends. Really, can we do this again? Actually, I have attended four viewings at Circle Cinema in less than two months. Considering, I maybe went to a movie once a quarter…I thought, maybe I should just become a member, so I did. Supporting a non-profit independent movie theater is a no-brainer if I get to continue to see these kinds of things. Other great shows that are coming soon are the National Theatre Live broadcast of Frankenstein, Jerusalem (showing now), Nebraska (showing now), August: Osage County (showing now), Inside Llewyn Davis (showing now), and so many others. Since three of those feature Benedict Cumberbatch, I would say someone is a member of the Cumbercollective, but that dude just released a wealth of work this past year. Check out the trailer for Frankenstein below. Who could resist that? It looks awesome! http://youtu.be/bLS48tH9Y14 ‘Til next time, Jessica
2 thoughts on “Coriolanus”
Ah …. so do you live in London? Does that mean you’ll be going to see Benedict play Hamlet? Because if you are, I’m red-faced jealous.
No, I don’t live in London, but National Theatre is broadcasting productions around the world. I found out from fellow blogger, JenFlem, when I wrote something about not being able to see Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller in Frankenstein. You can look on the site (ntlive.com) to find out where the broadcasts will be shown. It means I can sit in my little Tulsa, OK theater and still see some of these amazing plays. I would LOVE to see Benedict play Hamlet though!