Coriolanus: Play and Performance Review

So, this is very late. I’d definitely skimmed or read the story version of this play as well. I wrote my notes as remarks, so I’m going to have to pull my brief reviews from these somewhat cryptic responses.

Ugh. There is a reason this one is not one of Shakespeare’s super popular plays. Coriolanus is arrogant, but its not played interestingly. And there are parts where he lies and flatters the people to obtain power I think, I preferred his open contempt. There isn’t much humor period.

And all things above, HIS MOTHER! Who can respect a man with a mother like that-she unmans him no matter what he does? Everyone is awful, but Mummy and the tribunes are the worst.

Ok, such was reading the play. Now for the Donmar Playhouse performance. I’d seen almost all the main actors is very different things and some of those roles were ludicrously different (while fitting the actors far better than the ones in this play) for example one tribune is Aunt Marge from Harry Potter and Volumnia is the silly Miss Phoebe Browning.

This play did great at showing how his relationship with his domineering mother pushed contrasted with his relationship with his weak wife.

I at least first thought that Tom Hiddleston played Coriolanus less hateful and arrogant and more honest and maybe he was playing Coriolanus somewhat self-deprecatingly, as having as sense of humor? I also thought he made Coriolanus more dignified (or tried), but he could not fully be so because I felt that I could see the flattery and sycophancy from everyone highlighted so much in the performance, and I was heartily sick of hearing of his wounds.

I didn’t care for the odd mixture of modern, and modern with historically inspired elements, AT ALL. I don’t think it was creative, I thought it reminded me of a small town community, high school theater that doesn’t have enough money. I found it distracting, and his wife is made to look even sillier with her entirely modern outfit (which granted might be a point but could have been made more creatively). Also, this is a very Roman play, some plays are more timeless and better lent to modernization or modern vs classic juxtaposition, for example, Romeo and Juliet. Coriolanus loses impact when this was done to it.

I felt that the flattery (oh, it was constant!) highlighted the relationship boundaries crossed, especially the mother-son boundary that Volumnia doesn’t appear to think exists. So the flattery is creeping and the relationships are all creepy (they added another relationship boundary busting bit between the tribunes). And then play takes these things further with T. Aufidius and grossed me out and made Coriolanus looks absolutely ludicrous. I think also that this was one way to make the play have more humor but it wasn’t clever, didn’t fit, and all attempts at humor felt forced. So I quite watching.

Again, I need to stop having high expectations, that guarantees that they will be dashed down.

4 comments

  1. I should read more Shakespeare plays. It was interesting to hear your thoughts on this one. I’ve only read Julius Caesar and I enjoyed that one so I’ve been curious which one to read next at some point. Coriolanus might be a bit lower on my hope to read list so it’s nice to know

    1. I’d recommend the sparknotes versions with the original text on one side and the modern on the other. I tried to read the original as much as possible, but it was nice to look over and read the modern if there was a particularly abstract flowery passage.

    1. It depends on how much you want to read of Shakespeare, I’d like to read all of them, I just wouldn’t reread this one.

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