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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Coriolanus by NT 2014

The video of the National Theatre's version of Coriolanus, directed by Josie Rourke and starring Tom Hiddleston, was the third version of this play I have seen in the past few years. The previous two versions were a movie version directed and starred Ralph Fiennes and STC's production directed by Michael Kahn. Funny how suddenly this play has captured people's interest right around now. I think it's the politics and predict that we shall see a few more productions to emerge of Julius Caesar. These two plays should be staged back to back for anyone interested in politics and, amazingly, remain relevant today.

Also funny that the version I like the most is the STC one rather than the British versions. Hiddleston is just too young to fit the role, no matter how hard he works, and the key turn in the character at the end was not good or convincing, at least in the version that was filmed. The Fiennes version was pretty impressive and had the best Volumnia by Vanessa Redgrave, but the politics sort of confused me --- maybe that was my own fault.

I wonder if, in early 1600, the audience was a lot more predominantly in favor of the militant and dictatorial Coriolanus than people today, especially Americans. The people of 1600 England had never been taught the sacred "democracy" in school. Modern audience are probably a lot more uneasy about the heroic Coriolanus, given how his macho and combative stance contradicts today's social values. But there are many curious contradictions in the play, from femininity dousing masculinity to democracy tempering violent dominance. I wonder if men instinctively side with Coriolanus in his struggle against both democracy and his mother. "Damn women! Damn parliament!" But today's male viewers would probably too polite to say it. By this parallel, Shakespeare seems to make a comparison between democracy and femininity.

Side note: I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by Mark Gatiss playing Menenius. Beautiful timing and shifts in tone.


Coriolanus 2011 (Fiennes)

Coriolanus 2014 (Hiddleston)


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