NTLive Coriolanus Live Broadcast, Jan 30

DSCN1521Cinemas in Vienna jumped on the theatre bandwagon only very recently, so this was the second live broadcast (after the RSC’s Richard II) we had the opportunity to see and the first where I had seen the play live before. I am not going to wax on about the play itself – I have already done that here – but on the cinema screening.

Of course there is a huge difference in being in the actual theatre and seeing a broadcast, but it’s really the next best thing and gives a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to see the play access to great productions.

It is also a great way to discover new things about a play you have already seen. You never catch everything and there were a lot of plays I would have liked the chance to revisit and dissect more. In this production for example, I had missed the moment Volumnia finally realised she just practically killed her son. I think I was checking if there were already swords being sharpened or tempers rising stage left right then.

On the other hand, some things are hard to be picked up by the cameras, especially in such a small theatre as the Donmar. When one of Aufidius’ men (Mark Stanley) was stealthily creeping up behind Coriolanus, I had one eye on Coriolanus and Aufidius and one eye on him. In the broadcast, he popped into the frame rather suddenly when he was already right behind Coriolanus which caused some in the audience to laugh.

Technically, the broadcast was really well done. There were a few minor sound glitches in the beginning and two tiny camera mishaps, but none of those lasted more than half a second and there were no issues for the rest of the play.

The interview with Josie Rourke during intermission was dispensable even though she managed to gracefully make the most out of being asked stupid questions. I would have been more interested in the production process than in why people chose to sleep in front of the theatre hoping for day tickets. Rourke is not only the director of the play but also artistic director of the Donmar, for crying out loud.

The really embarrassing part was the sexiest man alive question (if you can call that a question at all). Not only did Emma Freud put herself in the same league as the two girls jumping up and down yelling ‘oh my God!’ in the loo in our cinema, it was disrespectful and insulting to both the director and the actor to insinuate the play’s lead might have not been cast on merit but for looks and fanbase.

I get extremely ticked off whenever someone suggests a woman might have gotten a job on her looks (or worse), but if we are equally as stupid in judging men, we have absolutely no leg to stand on. If I choose looking at that comment on a lighter note than the above, it was fangirling which is still unprofessional and irksome.

I suspect there were a lot of theatre newbies in the cinemas, for some of them it was probably even the first time they were confronted with Shakespeare. It would be interesting to know how many of those were bitten by the theatre bug. I also hope that the plays are going to be released on DVD/BluRay/VoD at some point, so even more have access to them. Until then, we’ll just keep buying tickets for the screenings as soon as they are announced. Just keep them coming NTL and RSC!

Ye’re long abou…

DSCN1520

Ye’re long about it.
– First Citizen, Act I, Scene I

In hindsight, the quote above should probably have been the title of this blog. Anyway, before the NTL broadcast next week, here are some quotes from Coriolanus. I can’t remember if all of those are in the Donmar production and don’t have the play text.

As always with Shakespeare, a lot of those can be used at work, at home or in a case of road rage. Personally, I will probably shake some bones out of someone’s garments next week. Enjoy!

He that depends
Upon your favours swims with fins of lead
-Marcius, Act I, Scene I

Were half to half the world by the ears and he.
Upon my party, I’ld revolt to make
Only my wars with him: he is a lion
That I am proud to hunt.
-Marcius, Act I, Scene I

Hear me profess
sincerely: had I a dozen sons, each in my love
alike and none less dear than thine and my good
Marcius, I had rather had eleven die nobly for their
country than one voluptuously surfeit out of action.
-Volumnia, Act I, Scene III

 

Now put your shields before your hearts, and fight
With hearts more proof than shields.
-Marcius, Act I, Scene IV

make you a sword of me?
-Marius, Act I, Scene VI

I’ll fight with none but thee; for I do hate thee
Worse than a promise-breaker.
-Marcius, Act I, Scene VIII

We hate alike:
Not Afric owns a serpent I abhor
More than thy fame and envy.
-Aufidius, Act I, Scene VIII

I have some wounds upon me, and they smart
To hear themselves remember’d.
-Marcius, Act I, Scene IX

I thank you, general;
But cannot make my heart consent to take
A bribe to pay my sword: I do refuse it;
And stand upon my common part with those
That have beheld the doing.
-Marcius, Act I, Scene IX

 

Too modest are you;
More cruel to your good report than grateful
-Cominius, Act I, Scene IX

I will go wash;
And when my face is fair, you shall perceive
Whether I blush or no: howbeit, I thank you.
-Coriolanus, Act I, Scene IX

Have we no wine here?
-Coriolanus, Act I, Scene IX

I know you can do very little alone; for your helps
are many, or else your actions would grow wondrous
single: your abilities are too infant-like for
doing much alone
-Menenius, Act II, Scene I

O, he is wounded; I thank the gods for’t.
-Volumnia, Act II, Scene I

One for the old-school comic fans:

True! pow, wow.
-Volumnia, Act II, Scene I

No more of this; it does offend my heart:
Pray now, no more.
-Coriolanus, Act II, Scene I

 

Know, good mother,
I had rather be their servant in my way,
Than sway with them in theirs.
-Coriolanus, Act II, Scene I

 

Sit, Coriolanus; never shame to hear
What you have nobly done.
-First Senator, Act II, Scene II

Your horror’s pardon:
I had rather have my wounds to heal again
Than hear say how I got them.
-Coriolanus, Act II, Scene II

No, sir: yet oft,
When blows have made me stay, I fled from words.
You soothed not, therefore hurt not
-Coriolanus, Act II, Scene II

 

I do owe them still
My life and services.
-Coriolanus, Act II, Scene II

The price is to ask it kindly.
-First Citizen, Act II, Scene III

You are like to do such business.
-Coriolanus, Act III, Scene I

No more words, we beseech you.
-First Senator, Act III, Scene I

Hence, rotten thing! or I shall shake thy bones
Out of thy garments.
-Coriolanus, Act III, Scene I

This is the way to kindle, not to quench.
-Menenius, Act III, Scene I

On both sides more respect.
-Menenius, Act III, Scene I

You are too absolute;
-Volumnia, Act III, Scene II

Consider further,
That when he speaks not like a citizen,
You find him like a soldier: do not take
His rougher accents for malicious sounds,
But, as I say, such as become a soldier,
Rather than envy you.
-Menenius, Act III, Scene III

What do you prate of service?
-Coriolanus, Act III, Scene III

Now we have shown our power,
Let us seem humbler after it is done
Than when it was a-doing.
-Brutus, Act IV, Scene II

Now thou’rt troublesome.
-Coriolanus, Act IV, Scene V

I do not know what witchcraft’s in him, but
Your soldiers use him as the grace ‘fore meat,
Their talk at table, and their thanks at end;
And you are darken’d in this action, sir,
Even by your own.
-Lieutenant, Act IV, Scene VII

When, Caius, Rome is thine,
Thou art poor’st of all; then shortly art thou mine.
-Aufidius, Act IV, Scene VII

 

This last old man,
Whom with a crack’d heart I have sent to Rome,
Loved me above the measure of a father;
Nay, godded me, indeed. Their latest refuge
Was to send him;
-Coriolanus, Act V, Scene III

Shall I be tempted to infringe my vow
In the same time ’tis made? I will not.
-Coriolanus, Act V, Scene III

 

Like a dull actor now,
I have forgot my part,
-Coriolanus, Act V, Scene III

 

O mother, mother!
What have you done?

.

.

You have won a happy victory to Rome;
But, for your son,–believe it, O, believe it,
Most dangerously you have with him prevail’d,
If not most mortal to him.
-Coriolanus, Act V, Scene III

it is no little thing to make
Mine eyes to sweat compassion.
-Coriolanus, Act V, Scene III

There is differency between a grub and a butterfly;
yet your butterfly was a grub. This Marcius is grown
from man to dragon: he has wings; he’s more than a
creeping thing.
-Menenius, Act V, Scene IV

No, in such a case the gods will not be good unto
us. When we banished him, we respected not them;
and, he returning to break our necks, they respect not us.
-Menenius, Act V, Scene IV

 

Thou hast done a deed whereat valour will weep.
-Second Lord, Act V, Scene VI

 

Bear from hence his body;
And mourn you for him: let him be regarded
As the most noble corse that ever herald
Did follow to his urn.
-First Lord, Act V, Scene VI

My rage is gone;
And I am struck with sorrow.
-Aufidius, Act V, Scene VI

I always wondered where Aufidius directed his energy after having killed Coriolanus. Maybe he went to Africa to find a serpent to abhor?

On both sides m…

On both sides more respect
– Menenius, Act III, Scene I

Coriolanus – Donmar Warehouse, London
CoriolanusSeen: January 4, 2014

Coriolanus is not an easy one. To quote the great philosopher Kris Kristofferson, he’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction, taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

On the plus side, Coriolanus is a principled guy and I think he’s right in what he is accusing the people of. On the other hand, he’s arrogant, his mother’s puppet (to a certain extent) and easily flies off the handle. What bothers me the most is that upon being banned (or, in his eyes, banning Rome from him), he immediately seeks out Rome’s biggest enemy to take revenge on his former home and everyone in it, including his family and friends. I have this weird thing for loyalty, so this always ticked me off and is in my opinion the crux when casting the title character.

The actor needs to be believable as a force of nature who can charge into a city alone (and come out alive and the victor), an arrogant ass, great soldier but horrible politician, principled but a vengeful traitor, while likeable and mature enough to have a devoted family, friends and supporters instead of having been murdered in his sleep years ago. There is definitely a danger of the audience turning indifferent to the ‘hero’ and checking out emotionally, thinking he’s had it coming. That was not the case in this production; there was crying and sniffling in the audience as well as shocked reactions to his bloody end.

Josie Rourke found the perfect fit in Tom Hiddleston, who seemingly effortless goes from humbly declining a bigger part of the spoils and asking for pardon of his former host (whose name he either can’t remember because of an adrenaline crash or because he never cared enough) and painfully cleaning himself up in private instead of being celebrated, to sharp-tongued, mocking arrogant snob who would rather be cast out and leave his family behind than apologize publicly and acquire some diplomatic skills.

The only gripe I had with Hiddleston’s performance was that I was cringing internally every time he waved his left arm around. While the people of Rome weren’t allowed to see the wounds acquired in battle, the audience did get to see them (nice make-up job and audible reaction from the audience) and that cut should have made moving the slinged arm only possible under considerable pain. Then again I also talk with my hands, so who am I to judge.

Mark Gatiss is brilliant as Menenius, the voice of reason and wise man who knows that some people are best asked for important things when their blood sugar levels are high. I really can’t remember the actor playing Menenius in the last production of this play I saw, this is definitely not going to happen here.

Deborah Findlay was one scary Volumnia – in a good way. Although a lot more politically savvy than her son, she is a woman of equally strong opinion who is not willing to suffer fools. I don’t think I have ever seen someone breathe fire so elegantly before.

Birgitte Hjort Sørensen not only delivers as Coriolanus’ devoted wife and mother to Caius jr., I never would have guessed she wasn’t a native English speaker or a novice to Shakespeare.

Helen Schlesinger and Elliot Levey are deliciously weasly as schemers Sicinia (Sicinius in the original text) and Brutus.

I don’t agree with the criticisms I read about Hadley Fraser’s portrayal of Tullus Aufidius. What did bother me was that I didn’t believe Aufidius’ anger after Coriolanus’ betrayal. This might have been in part facilitated by the earlier scenes in which the part of the cast not currently actively engaged on stage were put in neutral at the back. For me, it took away from Aufidius standing there, listening to Coriolanus being swayed by his family after all and realizing he would be the fool once more. It’s also possible that his reaction felt flatter than the thrown chair’s short flight because Deborah Findlay and Tom Hiddleston really pulled out all the stops just seconds before.

There really is no weak link in the cast or badly directed part of the production and I couldn’t think of anything that was cut in the text that would have been missed. For example, a nice chunk of Act IV, Scene V is substituted by Aufidius’ servants just looking at each other and then to the audience. The play isn’t exactly full of chuckles, but that was quite a laugh, along with others thanks to the skilled and natural delivery of the lines by the entire cast.

The scarce stage setting fits brilliantly both the production and the venue. This was my first visit to the Donmar, but hopefully not my last. The only disadvantage of such an intimate theatre is that performances sell out quickly.

I thought Josie Rourke’s take on the play and direction were impressive and am really looking forward to seeing The Weir the next time I am in London.

In the meantime, I am curious to see if and how the play has to be changed for the NTLive broadcast into cinemas January 30 to fit the cameras. While nothing beats seeing a play live in a theatre, this is a great way for those not able to get tickets or travel to London. I hope most of the atmosphere can carry across the screen and would definitely recommend this production.