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Coriolanus review at Donmar Warehouse London

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This is a taut, tense, intimate Coriolanus. Like the man himself, director Josie Rourke does not stand on ceremony, presenting a pared-down bloody, brutal and ruthless martial world, but one where the strength, clarity and profundity of Shakespeare’s poetry shines through.

There is barely any staging, just a row of seats at the back from which the cast spring to life. The backdrop is bedecked with graffiti, which changes throughout the production – a fitting metaphor for the shifting tides of power and popularity in this Rome.

The lead has often been performed by men in their 40s such a Ian McKellen (45) and Ralph Fiennes (49 in the film version), but Tom Hiddleston is a lean, mean fighting machine. Clad in leather jerkin, he finds himself literally drenched in bloody in his opening battle scene and the energy levels barely let up. Exulting in his fighting he is no mere monster, and shows the fear of a man lost out of combat, one who remembers the kindness of a stranger even after the heat of battle.

Just as Hadley Fraser’s gruff northern Aufidius accentuates (perhaps a little too much) the homoeroticism of his scenes with our flawed hero, Deborah Findlay’s Volumnia doesn’t play down the Oedipal charge of her words. But she is more than just a study in monstrosity. Her final scene when she begs for clemency and which seals his fate, is profoundly affecting. I was also impressed by Mark Gatiss’ Menenius, the wise consul who provides the voice of reason throughout this play with skill and precision. Rourke’s Donmar tenure goes from strength to strength.

Production Information

Donmar Warehouse, London, December 17-February 8

William Shakespeare
Josie Rourke
Donmar Warehouse
Cast includes
Peter De Jersey, Deborah Findlay, Mark Gatiss, Tom Hiddleston, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Helen Schlesinger
Running time
2hrs 45mins
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