Coriolanus was Shakespeare’s last tragedy. He is the ultimate soldier – a coddled mother’s boy whose sole purpose is to find valour and validation through martial prowess. He is elected to consul, and when unable to quell his pride or his politics with democratic Rome, he is exiled. He turns on the city, leading his old enemies the Volsces, against Rome. He has the city surrounded, and his mother begs him to lay down his life so she can live. He then allows himself to be killed for her sake.
The play penetratingly explores several themes, including the infantilising destructiveness of masculine gender ideas, the responsibility of those in power, the potential of democracy and it’s effect on the individual and the destructiveness of fascist ideology. It is a play about men in power, and how women try and exist within the system. It is a showcase for Shakespeare’s great unsung tragic hero, Coriolanus, and a character just as potent and comprehensive as Cleopatra or Rosalind; Coriolanus’ mother Volumnia.
It is over all a story of transcendence – an examination of a man whose greatest flaw is that he is too good. Caius Marcius Coriolanus is everything Rome says is good – and is unable to compromise his integrity even a jot. He is an incredible being – one dedicated in excessive entirety to his idea of what is right – who embraces the isolation and derision of one who dares to run before the pack.
Burning House sets the play in a world very much akin to a post-riot Ukraine. The concept of national identity is a tangible, malleable thing, and power is a very real, very raw thing. The world outside the countries borders is dangerous and the world inside charged with the strains of democracy, individualistic power and violence.
This is Shakespeare at his most modern. It is a story plugged into the politics of today’s world. It is a world where people tear off the doors of their houses to make protective shields, where ordinary citizens are thrust into public office to earn the right to eat, and men and women come undone by the very altitude of their virtues. It is combustible and dangerous. And it is very, very much a world of today.
Director / Co-producer: Robert Johnson Featuring: Tom Heath, Seton Pollock, Kerrie-Ann Baker, Alexander Rouse, Karlis Zaid, David Meadows, Amy Bradney-George, Nicholas Rijs, Paul Herbert, Charlotte Fox Set Designer: James Lew Lighting Designer: John Collopy Composer/ Sound Designer: Liam Bellman-Sharpe Production Manager: Marty Shlansky Stage Manager: Dana Hamilton Co-producer: Jessica Doutch
The Tragedy of Coriolanus
Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St. Kilda
Season: 20 – 29 May 2016 (preview: 19 May)
Bookings: (03) 9534 3388 or online at: www.theatreworks.org.au
For more information, visit: www.theatreworks.org.au for details.
Image: The Tragedy of Coriolanus – courtesy of Burning House