Pros: A sleek, well-paced and invigorating adaptation of a Shakespearean tragedy.
Cons: For those that aren’t familiar with Coriolanus or Shakespeare the story is at risk of being understood in broad strokes that miss the play’s many intricacies.
I cannot enter into a Shakespearean adaptation without trepidation. How can his carefully crafted words and characters be slashed and reduced into a coherent and satisfying story for today’s time poor public? Adapter and director Ricky Dukes proves that Shakespearean adaptations can stand up to full script, full scale productions with this pithy and sharp version of Shakespeare’s war time tragedy Coriolanus.
Armed with a cast of players clad in grey tops and neutral slacks, ready to take up any part at any given moment, this is a minimalist production that focuses on language and plot rather than gimmicks and high pageantry. As the curtain rises on the stark set laden with but a few multifunctional props that will help conjure several environments, the audience is immediately plunged into the action of the play.
A filmic first scene underscored by a pulsing beat places the audience in the midst of Roman riots, in which the citizens have risen against the state for being denied stores of grain. Lauded Deputy General of the Roman military Caius Martius is blamed for their neglect; he does not endear himself to the masses any further when he suggests they are undeserving of grain as they don’t serve their country in the army.
Suddenly, Caius Martius spies Rome’s enemy, a Volscian army, approaching in the distance and goes off to conquer. With great dramatic expediency he leads his country confidently into and triumphantly out of war. Welcomed home with a flourish, and awarded the name Coriolanus for his victory, his ambitious and equally hot-blooded mother (pitched perfectly by Kerry Willison-Perry) convinces her son to run for Senate: a campaign which looks as though it will be another victory for the General. Of course, not everyone has forgiven Coriolanus for his previous contempt of the citizens, and two individuals plot to ensure his downfall.
It’s a lot of action to get into an hour and fifteen minutes. While the story has been condensed quite well and allows you to get the gist of the story, the pace might prevent one from cluing into the details right away. Admittedly, it was a reading of the summary after seeing the production that allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of what was happening in certain parts!
This is a drama that would commonly come to life as a large-scale production presenting battles and Senates. The staging within the small black box space at Tristan Bates Theatre, combined with the sound design by Neil McKeown, was directed tremendously well in order to evoke the lively atmosphere and energy of a bigger production. Particularly clever was the trick of turning the Senate into a live chat show, using the audience as the crowd.
Lazarus Theatre’s Coriolanus is a great example of how accessible and engaging Shakespeare can be; so on that score I would thoroughly recommend this bite sized and easily digestible version of one of the Bard’s great works.
Author: William Shakespeare, adapted by Ricky Dukes
Director: Ricky Dukes
Producer: Lazarus Theatre Company
Booking Until: 6 September 2014
Box Office: 020 7240 6283
Booking Link: http://tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/coriolanus–our-world-at-war