All too often, I will hear about a play and want to cry. I want to cry because I know I will never be able to see it. I am a theatre lover, as you can tell, but I do not have unlimited resources such as time, money and patience. I do not have the money to pay for certain tickets. I cannot bring myself to pay £80 for one stall seat. I do not have the patience to sit at a computer screen, refreshing the screen until tickets become available. I do not have the time, and again the money, to travel to London at ridiculous o’clock in the morning in the hope of day seats. So when I heard about Tom Hiddleston playing the title role in Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse, I knew I didn’t stand a chance of seeing it in the flesh. Thank the thespian gods for National Theatre Live.
To be fair, I’m as bad as the audience members seeing it for the lead actor rather than the play. I know Coriolanus is Shakespeare but that’s about it. I had to have my friend explain the plot beforehand and clarify things during the interval. I saw it for Tom Hiddleston and Mark Gatiss; they are two fine actors that I would say are better on stage than off. The whole cast is comprised of some of the finest working actors. The Donmar Warehouse is becoming synonymous for good plays done better. Its alumni are the most brilliantly creative minds in the industry, everything they touch turns to gold.
The theatre converted from an actual warehouse only holds 251 people, and that is its greatest tragedy. But its space is both constricting and liberating. Director Josie Rourke’s Coriolanus embraces a rebellious Rome with a modern twist: a defaced wall, a ladder and chairs are the only dressing. At first, the use of the chairs reminded me of a thousand and one GCSE performances but I feel in love with the minimalism. Every character has a seat and a say in the city’s affairs. They are not soldiers; they make other people fight their battles. This is why we rarely see Caius Marcius Coriolanus sit. He is not a politician. He is their soldier.
Every actor on that stage is a powerhouse, finding the raw emotional truth in the play, letting politics come second. Tom Hiddleston does steal the show, there’s no denying it. There would be a lot of angry fan girls if he didn’t. The brief shower and a topless Hiddleston was extremely pleasing. I’m happy he has a loyal following because we, I mean they, all saw Shakespeare done brilliantly rather than the dull readings from our class mates at aged 14 and the embarrassing travelling performances. It may not be conventional reason to see theatre, but it has people seeing theatre. The tickets sold out in a day, a feat normally reserved for comedians and boy bands.
Like many, I had no idea what was going on, but I loved Coriolanus. It may have left me feeling uncultured and unworthy because I will always struggle with the language, but I tried and that counts for something too. But not a single person with that production can be blamed for that, it’s Shakespeare’s words and my ignorance. It was brilliantly staged, acted and directed, coming together to create an unforgettable performance.