Review: Coriolanus

In anticipation of its live broadcast, reviews Donmar Warehouse’s production of Coriolanus

Venue: Donmar Warehouse, London (coming to a cinema near you 30th January)
Director: Josie Rourke
Rating: ★★★★☆

photo credit: Johan Persson

photo credit: Johan Persson

A Shakespeare play is something which isn’t often found to be on the top of everyone’s pick of things to see at the cinema; but Coriolanus is simply a must see production. Based on Shakespeare’s work, the Donmar Warehouse in London hosts its latest production and will definitely be worth a watch when it is broadcast live at City Screen on the 30th January.

Shakespeare’s epic Roman play boasts a cast headed by Tom Hiddleston, most commonly known as Loki for his work in Thor and Avengers Assemble, yet he proves himself more than capable in playing Rome’s hero turned enemy Coriolanus.

The play takes place amongst a backdrop of a graffiti covered wall and boasts a powerful battle scene involving Hiddleston climbing a ladder which dominates centre stage, facing descending fireballs whilst the army behind him hide behind chairs. Ultimately, the intimate setting of the Donmar Warehouse works well with the lack of props, as it is the actor’s turmoil which is mainly focused on.

photo credit: Johan Persson

photo credit: Johan Persson

The plot is also comprehensible and anyone who has yet to hear of the play will find it rather easy to grasp in comparison to some of Shakespeare’s other work. Coriolanus is Rome’s military hero who returns wounded from battle , yet he is not welcomed back as warmly as thought due to Rome’s citizens’ facing a famine. Coriolanus’s failure to deal with the people’s misery only turns them against him therefore sending him to exile and turning him into a vengeful soldier.

The casting is full of recognisable faces, for example: Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss and Borgen’s Bigitte Hjort. Yet it is Hiddleston who steals the show with his range of complex emotions fitting the character of Coriolanus perfectly. He constantly brings a human side to the titular character as he recalls the man who had given him shelter when he once needed it before showering and tending to his wounds on stage, proving he may be a hero, yet he is still a man.

But then we slowly see him turn reckless, becoming a warrior who has no time for the people of Rome as he tears up red sheets of paper documenting their voices. Yet it is the relationship between Coriolanus and his mother Volumnia which makes him the military man he is. The scenes between Hiddleston and Debora Findlay (Volumnia) will have you watching with bated breath as the two actors portray their characters with exact finesse. Gatiss also excels as Menenius, providing comic relief and the voice of reason on occasions, and Birgitte Hjort also makes the most of her smaller role within the production.

With a dramatic ending, a star studded cast and a contemporary feel; Coriolanus is certainly a Shakespeare production which is worth seeing when it is broadcast live.

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