CORIOLAN/US | STAGE REVIEW
Hangar 858, St Athan
Thurs 9 August
Words: Rachel Williams
In another of NTW’s challenging and boundary-pushing pieces, Coriolan/Us melds the intricate with the large-scale as Hangar 858 becomes the set for a bold adaptation which fuses Brecht’s unfinished Coriolan and the original Shakespeare text.
One of Shakespeare’s lesser plays, it’s a pared down, political text that focuses on the relationship between power and the people. Poignant in today’s media frenzied, celebrity-obsessed, 24-hour news culture where it is the people that often hold the power and we continue to witness warfare across the globe.
As a character, Caius Martinus Coriolanus never has a chance to mull over the events that unfold. Rarely alone with minimal soliloquies and constantly on the move, he’s a true soldier reacting on his feet as his judgement allow. As Coriolanus, Richard Lynch is a menacing, unforgiving soldier dedicated to the realm and unprepared to compromise. Just as Tribunes Brutus (Chris Jared) and Sicinius (Nia Gwynne), are uncompromising in their hunt for power, their underhanded dealings and loyalty to the people.
It is the unique relationship between Coriolanus and Aufidius (Richard Harrington) that strikes the hardest, sworn enemies they are equals in skill and power yet through mutual hatred of Rome Coriolanus seeks Aufidius out to turn his attention to Rome once again to avenge their past grievances. Yet for all its patriarchal tug of war, this political and war-driven script allows the matriarch to win out: condemned to a life of worry and looking over shoulders it is Volumnia, Corolianus’s mother and her impassioned speech that halts the Volscian advance and saves Rome from its own son.
The audience is at once alone and adrift in this cavernous space yet intimate with the characters through the headphones provided as the characters push and shove their way through the crowd. They really are cast as the Plebeians, as the character’s come within inches of people’s faces: threatening or enticing and even bringing the audience into the performance to touch Coriolanus during his speech to the people to become a Consul. If the audience chose to watch the action from the giant, black and white screens and let the camera follow the characters, you could be at home watching a foreign correspondent following a live battle scene.
The use of moving vehicle’s makes sure the audience keep up with the action, and they’re are always moving. This demands a heightened level of audience movement, but as a promenade piece you are forewarned, there is an intense level of captivation to the performance and moving around the huge space seems second nature.
Sparse yet intricately set, the modern element of war is coneyed with concrete walls, caravans and burntout cars. War is given a constant presence – whether internal between the Consuls and tribune’s or between the Romans and the Volscians – and eerie, bright strip lighting provides the only source of illumination that once dim you either move to the next scene, like a moth to a flame, or get left behind in an unnerving, silent and cold darkness. Almost juxtaposing our own lives, the audience often find themselves surrounded by the continuing flash of images. Following the crowd, we rarely find a moment when, abandoned to our own thoughts, the set goes quite.
The play is part of the continuing Cultural Olympiad of 2012. NTW have been working in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Coriolan/US has been commissioned for the World Shakespeare Festival which has been incorporated into the London 2012 celebrations.
Coriolan/Us continues until Sat 18 August at Hangar 858, Picketston, St Athan.
Tickets: £7-15. Info: www.wmc.org.uk / 029 2063 6464