A little people power, as has been proven over the last few days, is a dangerous thing. So it goes with the Roman war hero who gives Shakespeare's most astonishingly current play its title. Thrust into politics on a wave of triumphalism, a lack of a common touch and open contempt for the people sees Coriolanus thrown out of office and cast out to the metaphorical wilderness where new alliances are forged.
Gordon Barr's production opens this year's Bard in the Botanics season with a subversive swagger, with Coriolanus here a woman who goes off to battle with her boys, leaving Duncan Harte's stay at home husband Virgilius holding the baby. Coriolanus' sparring with her mother, Volumnia, played by Janette Foggo, is given a fresh edge by the gender-swap, even as Alan Steele's Menenius offers paternal guidance.
Coriolanus herself is played with whirlwind-like ferocity by Nicole Cooper, who stomps her way through the Botanic gardens' Kibble Palace, with the audience either side of her cast as the silent majority who are treated with such disdain by the powerful elite that governs them. If this all sounds too close for comfort just now in the current state of fear and loathing, we should also take heed from the play's lesson.
When Coriolanus is confronted by Volumnia, Virgilius and child, for a moment their more intimate exchanges seem to point to the gentler, more compassionate and less confrontational politics the world so desperately needs right now . As Cooper's deposed general is stabbed cruelly from all sides after turning her back on her own flesh and blood, that the play's last words go to the family she left behind speak volumes.
The Herald, June 27th 2016