Let me have war, say I – Coriolanus

Dear reader,

so, did you recognize the quote? It would not surprise me, if you’ve never heard it. „Coriolanus“ is probably the most unknown of Shakespeare’s plays. Understandable, since most Roman stories are corny and gush about always the same presentations and behaviors. Well, Coriolanus is different. Last week I have seen it as a live broadcast from the National Theatre London. As a preliminary I reveal this much: The cast was a dream.

 Coriolanus (Tom Hiddleston) and Aufidius (Hadley Fraser).  Photo by Johan Persson.
Coriolanus (Tom Hiddleston) and Aufidius (Hadley Fraser).
Photo by Johan Persson.

The story takes us into a Rome in which the appointment of tribunes has already begun. Caius Marcius (our later Coriolanus, played superbly by Tom Hiddelston) announces that the plebeians may choose five representatives of the people (the tribune). He clearly wants to be elected himself because he feels born to rule and has nothing but contempt for the people. Well, he does not get to that for now, as a continuing war between Rome and the Volscians forces the young generals to to rush Corioles and to face the battle there. Caius Marcius is separated from his comrades and alone he makes his way into the city. There he fights noble and manages it to open the doors from the inside. As he led the Romans to victory, he received the nickname Coriolanus.

So far so good. We know from experience that the greatest heroes of course always had many stones placed in their ways. Of course this happens as well to our good Coriolanus. Back home he is not as welcomed as you would think. He faces death and needs to escape to the exile. Here Shakespeare manages a terrific twist, which I will not reveal to you. If the opportunity arises, go see the play. It will captivate you!

Coriolanus (Tom Hiddleston).  Photo by Johan Persson.
Coriolanus (Tom Hiddleston).
Photo by Johan Persson.

Speaking of captivating… I was absolutely entranced by the great cast. Tom Hiddelston has impersonated the Coriolanus with such a passion and dedication that he bursts into tears and by this he brought me a theatrical moment of happiness, which probably was a one in a million moment. Mr. Hiddelston knows how to make subtle nuances in gestures and facial expressions count and can easily curse blustering on the tribune in one second and turn a completely different, loving person in the next, while interacting with his wife.

Menenius (Mark Gatiss).  Photo by Johan Persson.
Menenius (Mark Gatiss).
Photo by Johan Persson.

However, this Brit was not the only one whose powerful play made my heart beat faster. Mark Gatiss (oh God, I LOVE this man) has quite wonderfully interpreted Menenius and had given him some interesting aspects that I would not have recognized in other actor’s interpretations of the character. Last but not least, let’s talk about Hadley Fraser. Never heard of him? You should change. Young, dashing and blessed with a great voice. He embodies Aufidius, the counterpart of Coriolanus. So convincing that it partially really scared me.

You noticed already: I am exuberant. And yes, I say it often and herewith I will write it down: NTLive’s Coriolanus was by far the best production I’ve ever seen.

Sincerely yours,

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