My wife and I have been celebrating our anniversary with a rare overseas trip, to the UK. While we’re on a fairly tight budget here, we did manage to snag tickets our first night to see Coriolanus, a live Shakespeare production starring Tom Hiddleston.
Oh dear. Creepers make IO9.
This account just breaks my heart. How anyone could exhibit so little empathy for another human being (celebrity, theatre employee, anyone) is beyond me.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if, in lieu of the usual material items, fans collectively presented Tom with the gift of empathy, respect and space by honoring the Donmar’s repeated explicit requests to disperse and/or NOT to wait by the fire exit?
Granted, such consideration is long overdue, and should go without saying. But at the very least it sure would be a nice gesture for the remainder of the run.
I’d rather be called a shamer for criticising the obnoxious behaviour of the trophy-hunters, shovers, pushers-in, repeat offenders, stage-snappers, harassers, entitled idiots and shameless objectifying creeps who brag about only going to Coriolanus to leer at Tom Hiddleston…
…than be one of…
A well-reasoned, rational post on a subject that has occupied a lot of bandwidth (not to mention emotion) here of late.
Putting aside the whole debate of some people calling out others for their behavior, I think the fundamental question for each of us as fans (indeed, as human beings) is: how do we want to be perceived and/or remembered?
In my opinion, regardless of the situation, the best action I can take is strive to treat others as I wished to be treated. For me, that implies compassion and respect. But as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.
Okay I’m going to wade into this with my two cents. The reason I’m writing this is because I went to the stage door on Thursday and to see the play/stage door on Friday. I wasn’t sure what to expect after reading so much online about the stage door. But what I got was basically Jekyll & Hyde….
A rational, considered perspective from someone who’s seen both aspects of the stage door experience. Well done.
Because apparently the way in which some choose to express gratitude for witnessing such a wonderful production is by being massively disrespectful of the theatre, the cast, and all the other patrons.
Somebody was caught trying to film Coriolanus this afternoon.
If this was a fan, I will be more angry than I have ever been before.
Jesus Fucking Christ.
Tom Hiddleston’s Coriolanus is a lean, mean killing machine with crippled emotions in this exciting and intense production, says Charles Spencer
There is a good deal about Josie Rourke’s new production of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, starring Tom Hiddleston, that I found irritating. It is full of modish tricks, including blasts of deafening electronic music, costumes that mix Roman robes and Dr Martens boots, and a people’s tribune played by an actress. This was, after all, the theatre that gave us an all-female Julius Caesar.
But these are merely the trappings of a production that is often exciting and intense, with Hiddleston delivering a powerhouse performance in the title role. He is one of the current crop of gifted Old Etonian actors, and that seems exactly right. For Coriolanus has always put me in mind of the classic English public schoolboy with an undeveloped heart, the bossy and often brutal head prefect who is brilliant on the games field and at telling the younger pupils to “take a brace”, as they used to say in my days at Charterhouse, but all at sea when it comes to emotion and an inner life.
The actor memorably captures both sides of Coriolanus’s personality. In the battle of the first act we see him in all his gory glory, drenched in blood and winning the fight single-handed. In Hiddleston’s performance he’s a lean, mean killing machine, and there is an extraordinary moment in which he takes a shower after the battle and gasps with pain as his wounds turn the water blood red.
But in almost every other respect, Coriolanus is inadequate, an emotional cripple in thrall to his domineering mother, and a crashing snob who can’t bear sucking up to the plebs to get their vote. Here, too, Hiddleston is persuasive, and Rourke’s production excitingly captures the play’s political process as Coriolanus goes from hero to zero, thanks to the pride of his own personality and the machinations of the tribunes who, unlike the awkward hero, know exactly how to bend the mob to their devious will.
But this harsh, flinty tragedy becomes suddenly moving in the last act as Coriolanus’s mother, wife (Borgen’s Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) and son try to persuade him not to take revenge on the Rome that has banished him. Here, Hiddleston marvellously captures a sudden piercing tenderness and love, as if experiencing these overwhelming emotions for the first time. The cruel irony is that he also knows that in following the unfamiliar demands of his heart he is signing his own death warrant.
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.
Starring Tom Hiddleston…
"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. It is worth trying to get last minute tickets released on Monday mornings."
"He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
Was timed with dying cries: alone he enter’d
The mortal gate of the city, which he painted
With shunless destiny; aidless came off,
And with a sudden reinforcement struck
Corioli like a planet…” (Coriolanus, Act 2 Scene 2)
So this week, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I managed to see Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse by the simple expedient of queuing for returns. As if by magic, a ticket appeared, and you should work this miracle yourselves.
Let’s not kid around: this show is stripped down and raw, and really rather excellent. The Elizabethan stage didn’t possess much in the way of set, and this production is oddly classical in its approach with actors visible for the majority of the scenes, and props making do as set pieces. That’s not to say that the design is boring; far from it. Instead, it is interactive - with the actors, at least - and re-created anew each night through paint and light and bodily fluids. It is apt, because this is a play there the blood runs free and sluices through the streets. Coriolanus is not a show suitable for those with a weak stomach, or a fair heart.
The story is not one of Shakespeare’s famous ones, and may or may not be true. The soldier Coriolanus is thrown down by the people on the eve of his greatest triumph and vows revenge: sound familiar? It could be the story of any number if Roman heroes, and earlier ones as well. For me , it reminded me of Alcibiades, the great hero of the Athenian city state, who was exiled for becoming too powerful and swore vengeance. Coriolanus is a Roman soldier, not an Athenian one, but there are marked similarities. The power of the people still holds sway, and the part of Roman history the play is thought to reference is rife with demonstrations of that power as workers withdrew their work and their swords. Coriolanus, one of the nobles, has no love for the people and holds his honour dear. It is, as in so many Greek tragedies , his undoing.
Tom Hiddleston as Coriolanus is a bit of an odd choice. I would have thought that he was a little too young to play the role, but he acquits himself with aplomb. The director clearly tried to use his youth and energy to their full potential in several visceral battle scenes, including one particularly lovely vertical one, and in having his family be young and vulnerable alongside him. The big moment all the girls in the audience seemed to be looking forward to - the shower scene - is less the gratuitous display of prettiness I’d expected (and worried about), and more a groaning, slow-motion breakdown after the battle. I appreciated the chance taken in doing something that unpretty, given how easy it would have been to fall into an audience-pleasing frothy moment.
Coriolanus’s mother Volumnia was a particular favourite of mine, funny and acerbic and convincingly maternal, which doesn’t always happen in Shakespeare mother figures. Her relationship with Coriolanus was a real highlight of the play, and his turn onwards her hand works well on a young man on our modern stage (and made me appreciate that an older casting would have made this relationship problematic in the extreme).
Mark Gatiss as Menenius was sublime, funny and touchingly broken in turn. His mannerisms had a real delicacy and deft that convincingly conveyed gravitas and humanity: he loves Coriolanus, for all his faults. His is the voice of the senior statesman, although we do have him as a Senator, he also plays the father-figure with the same hand.
Aufidius, too, is a young man’s role in this production, as violently visceral and earthy as Hiddleston’s eponymous hero. This Aufidius touches what he covets, and what he covets is the glory settled upon Coriolanus like a mantle. Now, this is the other part of what the fandom has been screaming about, and yes, there is a lot of touching and kissing. But I found it just as unnerving as I suspect Coriolanus found it, given the circumstances and what it conveys. There is no great love story here (or if there is , it has stolen a march on R&J on fucked up and twisted). Aufidius, when all is said and done, does what he must for his people, as Coriolanus does what he must for his honour.
I struggle with this play, and it is simply because Coriolanus is too much the classical hero for me to be able to bleed for him. He is as perfect and proud and vengeful as Achilles, and yet it is his humanity, trampled down but still present , which is his undoing. The energy of the play , then, feels odd for a modern stage, starting off high with a lot of physical acting and battles, and tapering off into the consequences of success and glory and vengeance. The end , when it comes, is inevitable and more an exhaled whimper than a triumphant bang: the characters know what is coming, and so do we.
Do try to see the show if you can, it really is a very interesting interpretation with an excellent cast and sterling direction.
The last time I saw Coriolanus on stage was at Gainsborough studios in 2000. I might not remember much about the production, but one thing impossible to forget was the space. The film studios had b…
Thoughtful review of Coriolanus by a theater blogger. NOTE: contains some set/design/production spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.