Angus Jackson’s production of Coriolanus provides a social commentary on the clash against the hooded lower classes and suited upper’s. There is a conflict of styles which at times jars, however these are stitched together with strong performances from the core cast to help carry the deeply political struggle.
The production opens with a lengthy fork lift routine moving bags of food away from the hungry plebeians. The on rushing ensemble outrage at the situation that has befallen them and call for change. Famine, unrest and insurrection boil precariously among the lower class Plebeians. So sets the plays tragic conflict ‘the people’ against those who’s job it is to protect them. Enter Gaius Marcius, the legendary protector of Rome, drunk with arrogance and wealth played by a stoic Sope Dirisu. Bedaubed in a sharp dinner suit surrounded by his closest allies and family paints a picture of privilege, reinforcing the class divide that Jackson leans on heavily. A welcome break in the discussions that dominate the first half is the battle between the Volscian and Roman armies led, respectively by Dirisu as Marcius and Tullus Aufidius played by James Corrigan. The battle showcases some impressive sword skills from the core ensemble and some herculean moments for Gaius Marcius, soaked in blood and donning two swords fulfilling the ‘one man army’ part. However the delivery of his various speeches jar with the progression of the battle. We do not see the effect on Dirisu’s character as his well rehearsed delivery is consistent yet unfortunately monotonous. The battle seems almost single-handedly won by Marcius which results in him being crowned ‘Coriolanus’. He is urged by his mother to pursue a role as Consul, a title and responsibility alien to Marcius’ military lifestyle.
The fractious relationship between Coriolanus and The People dominates the remainder of proceedings, this leaves Coriolanus exiled from Rome as he cannot appease his contempt for the people, forcing him to reach out to his sworn enemy Aufidius to help exact his revenge on Rome. Pleading from his mother, young son and wife is a true showcase of all actors involved, especially the moving Haydn Gwynne whom is the driving force in this pivotal scene. With Coriolanus swayed by his closest family, Aufidius is left betrayed viciously strangling Coriolanus as a result. Jackson’s production, although with it’s strong performances does not surprise in any way. There is a difficult monotony throughout with a melancholic string ensemble that halts any progression of pace. - Patrick Riley