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 number. 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 ends