Theatre review: The Tragedy of Coriolanus
Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: The Tragedy of Coriolanus at the Playhouse, reviewed by Joyce McMillan
THERE’S an element of pure joy in seeing the Playhouse stage stormed by such an epic production as this immense and vivid Coriolanus, directed by Lin Zhaohua and Yi Liming for the Beijing People’s Art Theatre.
With 30 actors on stage, plus 11 musicians from the two Beijing-based heavy metal bands, this production has no difficulty in conjuring up the crowd scenes that play such a key role in the story of Coriolanus, the successful Roman general so proud of his nobility, and arrogant in his achievements, that he treats the Roman people with blistering contempt, and –after he is banished – forms an alliance with Rome’s great enemy, the Volscian general Aufidius.
So the back wall of Yi Liming’s huge set suggests the great portals and walls of a ruined city, scaled by besieging ladders; and the company play the crowd scenes with terrific comic energy, portraying the fickleness of the mob, and the shallow demagogy of the tribunes. Despite the crash and thunder and contrasting subtlety of the music this often seems like a slightly old-fashioned production, built around a fine, traditional Shakespearean peformance from Pu Cunxin as Coriolanus, and a thrilling one from Li Zhen as his mother Volumnia.
It’s not a definitive production; but it adds a powerful voice to the human conversation about this mighty drama, and about how to fight for democracy, in the full knowledge of the dangers of mob rule, and of the tyranny of the majority.
Read an interview with Lin Zhaohua on The Tragedy Of Coriolanus
Originally published in The Scotsman