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A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
The Japanese theme is carried through with music, full of gongs and cracks of blocks creating dramatic atmosphere but not recommended for those who wear hearing aids for whom the discordant bursts of noise will be painful. Japanese costume of colourful silks and brocades is worn.
Greg Hicks' has a wonderful voice, powerful but with a unique cadence, a spoken coloratura that sheds interesting light on Shakespeare's lines. Vocally he is in a league with John Hurt and Michael Gambon but he also has immense physicality. Sometimes he barks, his voice jabbing out the words like the sound of the Chinese blocks. His performance too has a surprising edge. "Better to starve than to beg" sums up Coriolanus' flaw, his pride. Although he is a patrician, he shows the streetwise arrogance of a hardened gang member. After being made "Coriolanus" for the taking of Corioli, he shrugs like a "bovver boy" embarrassed at the excess of praise. Again, at the victory ceremony, it is a gauche awkwardness he portrays rather than confident success. As a refugee wrapped in a cloak, a parallel with today's asylum seekers, he has a dignity about him.
Having switched sides, joined the Volscians, with Rome is under siege, for a man of action Coriolanus is the most articulate of generals as he tells the Romans, " Mine ears against your suits are stronger than/Your gates against my force". Apparently Hicks modelled himself on the Manchester United soccer player Roy Keane. Keane is a modern day hero who had his own bust-up with the management of the Ireland team at the World Cup last year and despite being their most talented footballer, found himself sent home. Coriolanus was Rome's most talented soldier but he didn't like the team management of the Tribunes. I think Keane refused to apologise just as Coriolanus refused to submit to the common people.
Alison Fiske as his mother, the ballsy Volumnia, growls some of her lines but although her delivery is at times rapid, she has the force of a formidable matron. Scary! I liked too Tom Mannion and Simon Coates as the Tribunes, men in the Japanese equivalent of grey suits, "the grey dressing gowns" who incite the mob against Coriolanus only to have no answer when Rome is under attack.
Coriolanus held my interest in the first half of the play but the second half tends to pale as everyone gets entrenched and it hurtles towards the inevitable conclusion. At over three and a quarter hours, at the end of a long and heavy week, I had had enough. So do see the remarkable Greg Hicks -- but make sure you are fresh and ready for the fray.