Skip to main content

The Tragedy of Coriolanus

Edinburgh Playhouse
four stars
If ever there was a sound more perfectly suited to Shakespeare's 
high-ranking tragedy of power and glory involving a Roman warlord who 
can't accept the will of the common people, it is the pomp and little 
circumstance of heavy metal. Such potential for a bombastic borderline 
fascist rally is something which iconoclastic Chinese director Lin 
Zhaohua clearly recognised for this epic reading of Coriolanus for the 
Beijing People's Art Theatre, which puts Chinese rock bands Miserable 
Faith and Suffocated either side of a stage that houses a multitude of 
bamboo spear wielding extras who make up the Roman hordes.

Chinese superstar Pu Cunxin struts the stage in a flowing cape and 
chest-plate as Martius, who is granted the title of Coriolanus after 
waging war successfully on the Volsces, led by the scheming Aufidius. 
This makes for a stunning series of set-pieces, which finds assorted 
noblemen picking up microphones and raging at the world like rappers on 
heat at a soundclash. Coriolanus himself high-fives his people, a 
hero-worshipped warlord who refuses to sell-out to popular forces, 
while at one point a gleeful senate do a jig to a jaunty bossa nova 

Beyond all this, the play, performed in Mandarin, is remarkably intact, 
even if it is rendered in a gloriously one-dimensional and surprisingly 
light-hearted style. Like all despots, however, Coriolanus does what 
his mother tells him, and his late-blooming bromance with Alfidius 
comes to a sticky end. The two bands assorted fanfares and flourish 
which either book-end or underscore the action is actually not that far 
removed from traditional Chinese music, the only difference here being 
that it's put through Marshall amps and cranked up really high.

The Herald, August 21st 2013



Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …