THERE’S so much political ambiguity to Coriolanus that it feels like a behind scenes meet and greet at a Liberal Democrat Party Conference.
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Shakespeare’s historical drama following the fortunes of ruthless Roman General Caius Martius “Coriolanus” as he reeks terrible revenge on the city that rejects his leadership is a dark exploration of the themes of pride, arrogance and misguided ambition.
Taking a modern, filmic approach to the staging of the play, the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Company have succeeded in creating a taut thriller that is all very Donmar Warehouse circa 1997.
What is particularly striking is the stark division of performers, between those who have absolutely invested in their roles, understood the way in which they wish to portray their character to the audience and have gotten to grips with the flow of the script so that is delivered with the correct emphasis, and those that haven’t.
It doesn’t so much come down to lack of rehearsal.The ensemble seem to be well rehearsed and very confident in their roles, really feeling the rhythm of the original language and working with it.
Director William Watt has done an excellent job, particularly of working round this issue and of giving the performers lots of room to explore their characters. The second act’s electric scene between Coriolanus, Andy Edwards and his mother, Volumnia (Sarah McGuinness), as she asks him to save Rome is stretched out so long the tension becomes unbearable.
McGuinness’s turn as a dignified, manipulative Volumnia absolutely carried the production. Even the warring enemy Volscians spent much of the first half of the night littering the stage like a diffident Indy band, their leader Tullus Aufidius a skulking Gallagher brother.
It wasn’t until the second act that Frank Kerr had the chance to unleash his considered, rather reserved and unexpectedly touching Aufidius.
If Andy Edwards had the acting range to make his Coriolanus equally repellent, then the production would have been riveting. Instead, Coriolanus’s introduction as a guy who wheezes through a few push ups somewhat quashes the image we’re supposed to have of him.
Run ends tomorrow.