The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
by Lizzie Loveridge

let me have war say I; it exceeds peace as far as day does night; it's spritely, waking , audible, and full of vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy: mulled, deaf, sleepy, insensible; a getter of more bastard children than war's a destroyer of men.
--- Coriolanus
Greg Hicks as Coriolanis
(Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Playing in repertory to contrast with The Merry Wives of Windsor, at the Old Vic after being produced at Stratford upon Avon, is the last of Shakespeare's Roman plays, Coriolanus, a three and a quarter hour polemic on the shortcomings of democratic rule. David Farr has chosen to mount his production in Japanese dress, making the warrior Coriolanus, a samurai. The parallels with this superior military strata of traditional Japanese society are powerful. Coriolanus (Greg Hicks) is first and foremost a soldier, a patrician, one of the ruling class who does not have the common touch. Unlike another of Shakespeare's soldiers, Henry V, Coriolanus cannot bring himself to kow tow to the people of Rome and this weakness is exploited by the Tribunes who easily manipulate the citizens.

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.

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by David Farr

Starring: Greg Hicks
With: David Killick, Adam Kay, Karl Morgan, Richard Corderey, Lindsey Fawcett, Ciaran McIntyre, Richard Copestake, Kieron Jecchinis, Simon Coates, Lucy Tregear, Hannah Young, David Jowett, Daniel Ciotkowski, Tom Mannion, Claire Carrie, Michael Gadiner, Patrick Romer, James O'Donnell, Alison Fiske, Chuk Iwuji, Kate Best
Set and Costumes designed by: Ti Green
Season Stage designed by Peter McKintosh and Ti Green
Lighting Designer: Hartley TA Kemp
Sound: Gregory Clarke
Music: Keith Clouston
Movement: Lorna Marshall
Fights: Terry King
Musical Director: Richard Brown/James Dodgson
A Royal Shakespeare Company production
Running time: Three hours 15 minutes with one interval .
Box Office: 020 7928 7616
Booking to 23rd August 2003 in rep with The Merry Wives of Windsor
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 21st June 2003 Performance at the Old Vic, Waterloo Road, London SE1 (Tube Station: Waterloo)

Mendes at the Donmar
Our Review

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook
London Sketchbook

Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

ble Plays of the Last Century


©Copyright 2003, Elyse SommerCurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from