“National Live Theatre” Review: “Coriolanus”

OVERALL: Wow! That was thrilling.

POINTS: OMG!!! People of Color and women playing traditionally white male roles. SQUEE!!!!!!!!! And of course, Tom Hiddleston. The man can act.

PITFALLS: It’s only being shown once in  my hometown. Boo. In fact, there were some people in the theater who had driven close to 3 hours. Uh, could we have this show up in more places please? Maybe even let BBC America or PBS play it even if it isn’t “live” anymore. Hint, hint, hint.

FEMALE CHARACTER(S): Volumnia. I have the distinct feeling papers have been written about this woman. She is Coriolanus’ mother and she is fierce and strong and really knows how to get to her son. In fact, there are times when I watch this that I think if Volumnia had been a man, well, Coriolanus would have been a king’s son. So Volumnia takes up space and power and is considered by everyone in the play who meets with her, a powerful force. Virgilia, Coriolanus’ wife, is much less powerful than her mother-in-law – at least it would appear. I still say Virgilia has lots of strength – she can certainly confront those who attack her husband – she just isn’t as vocal about it. Also since women got to play traditionally male roles, we got to see women run the gamut of political, social, and even military roles. Cool.

CULTURAL PITFALL(S): Hmmmm….. Well now I’ll be honest with ya’ – I’m always going to side with the plebians. So there were times when I thought the plebes and the tribunes were portrayed as villains. Ok, so maybe they are in this play – I’m no Shakespeare scholar. But since I agree with Mark Gatiss, who plays a Coriolanus supporter Menenius, who called Coriolanus a “proto-facist.” Therefore, although on a personal level I can feel for Coriolanus and especially his family, I’m not sorry for any misfortune that befalls him. I mean, good grief! The man acts like he owes the plebes nothing! It’s not like they provide food or resources or labor to Rome or his class.

HIGH POINT(S): 1.) Tom Hiddleston. Yes the man can act. Really act. He’s got the chops. Now we get to see him in action on stage as a character that frankly I would never have imagined him playing. Huzzah Mr. Hiddleston! You are a very gifted actor and you are well on the road to knighthood for your abilities. 2.) Diverse Cast. Oh just squee again. I LOVE seeing women and People of Color playing roles usually given to white men. Glorious! See men and women and people of all colors work on the stage gives the show a feeling of community, of inclusiveness. I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t feel isolated from the action because I can see people like myself in the show. Loved it. More please! 3.) Aufidius played by Hadley Fraser *[SPOILER ALERT]* I felt really sorry for this character. It seems no matter what he did, poor Audifius just kept getting beaten by Coriolanus. Even after Aufidius basically rescues Coriolanus and takes him in, Coriolanus is always outshining him. It’s like on some level Aufidius is always going to win the silver and never the gold. (Yes, I’m watching the Olympics.) I just felt that perhaps in the end Aufidius felt betrayed by Coriolanus and thus got his heart broken. I could, mind you, be the only person who feels/thinks this way but there you are. In short, well done Hadley Fraser. *END [SPOILER ALERT]* 4.) Humor. I love how I got to laugh at the humor in the show. I love that the lines were played with the humor in mind. It made the show understandable and easier to follow. I admit, there are times when I watch Shakespeare I think “What the heck did they just say?” So I like it when I can understand.      5.) Woman director. Ok, ok, I admit it – I LOVE it when women get to be directors. 🙂 Well done Josie Rourke! 6.) My Hubby. My husband is such a good and noble person. I could feel him being involved with the show and getting caught up in the characters. He said to me later that he felt it was a moving experience and had a lot of life lessons in it. Yeah, ok, I’m stupid in love.

BECHDEL TEST (Website): 2 of 3. Volumnia, played by Deborah Findlay, and Virgilia, played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, do have quite the scene – with even another woman – joining them. However the topic of the scene is Coriolanus himself.

RACIAL BECHDEL TEST (Website): Hmmmmm……. I could not find this reviewed on the site, though it may be in the future. I enjoyed that there were black people in the cast – hooray – but although black people spoke to each other, I don’t know if I would count their conversations as meeting this test. However, as previously stated, I really loved seeing People of Color in this show.

IMDB: “National Theatre Live” Coriolanus (TV Episode 2014)


DVD/BLU-RAY WORTHY: Yes!! Oh and that’s a hint Donmar/National Theatre. 😉 Pleeeeeeeese! Oh and while you are at it, I want to buy the soundtrack too.

LION PAW PRINTS:  3 of 5. This was such a great experience.

Donmar Theater Coriolanus poster

2 responses to ““National Live Theatre” Review: “Coriolanus”

  1. Agreed. Agreed. Agreed. That was by far the best produced and best acted Shakespearean play I’ve ever seen.

    It’s no secret that I’m a Tom Hiddleston fan, but I don’t think it’s my bias talking when I say that he totally blew this performance away. When Volumnia and Virgilia plead to Coriolanus and the actors are just standing there on stage in silence with the emotion of the moment, the stillness in the theater was palpable. I could just feel the energy in the air.

    But while everyone is talking about the actors, I also have to agree with you on the soundtrack. The way they changed scenes, with the lighting and the music, really added to the feel of the play.

    And I loved the set, the way they painted on the stage and the wall. It made a minimal set seem so much more real.

    I want to own this on DVD so bad. I’m also jonesing to see more plays. War Horse is Sunday, March 23rd, and I’m planning to go to that. The way they designed the horses is awesome!

    • Amen my friend I do agree. Mr. Hiddleston is a great actor and one day will be knighted for it. 🙂 Amen again to your describing the audience reaction. It was very moving. Hubby Scott felt the same and felt it was very much worthwhile. He felt it was a learning experience. (I love him.)

      Oh and I heard the soundtrack will eventually be available so I will so be getting it. Belly dance time!

      Maybe friendly emails to NTLive.com will get them to release DVDs. Or even a download! I would love to have Coriolanus on my iPod and iPad. 🙂

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