Dates and Venue 27 February - 14 March 2009; Tues – Sat 8pm | Jericho Arts Centre

Director Jack Paterson Set Design Al Frisk Lighting James Foy Costume Design Moira Fentum Fight Choreography F. Braun McAsh Stage Manager Susan Currie

Reviewer Jane Peistan

Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s least known and less performed plays. Politically, as relevant today as it was in the Tudor Queen Elizabeth’s day, the play pits military necessity against civilian hardship and misunderstood civil political decisions against military expectations.

Jack Paterson has directed this controversial drama clearly defining the different aims and fears of both civic officialdom and that of those commissioned by the state to defend it.

In a time of famine exacerbated by the war with the Volsces, the people of Rome are in uproar against a government, whom they suspect are starving the common people to feed the wealthy. They are led to see reason by Menenius, a patrician and friend of Coriolanus, then again stirred to insurrection by the tribunes.

Brought up in the tradition of a patrician military family, Coriolanus is unwilling to use his army popularity and prowess to seek election to consulship in the state. That he must do this is urged upon him by his family and advisors. Used to a privileged life and to being in command of dangerous situations and dismissive of his own valour, he finds having to curry favour with the people of Rome distasteful. Consequently, the Roman citizens find him aloof and disdainful. The crowd who hear his speech for election is manipulated by the wily self-seeking Peoples’ Tribunes and Coriolanus is accused of treason against his country and banished.

Stung by the ingratitude of the Romans and feeling an outcast, the once acclaimed hero leaves his mother, wife and son and his homeland to find shelter among his erstwhile antagonists, the Volsces. Suspiciously, they accept him and plan for him to lead an assault against Rome. Petitioned against this act of treason by his once autocratic and authorative mother, his faithful wife and adoring and adored son, he yields to his family’s pleas and by his act of infidelity to his new found paranoid friends, is assassinated by them.

Outstanding in the large and talented cast is the performance of Keith Martin Gordey as Menenius, father figure to Coriolanus and peacemaker between the patricians and the fractious citizens of Rome. His presence, dignity and quiet spoken but eminently audible speech delivered his wisdom and authority faultlessly.

Gwynyth Walsh, as Volumnia, was autocratic, majestic but also humane as the very patrician mother of an illustrious son and widow of a military and aristocratic senator.

Coriolanus (Ian Butcher) lacked a certain dignity in his presentation. He appeared to be a bully, rather than a leader of men. While his impatience was understandable, his over use of shouting detracted from authority. Nevertheless his seldom seen humanity was well realised in his scenes with his mother and his son, young Martius, and at his mother’s appeal for his clemency to the people of Rome.

Jack Paterson, wisely, had young Martius (Una Memisevic) in many scenes, as observer, attendant, aspiring soldier or admiring son. With very few lines, this very talented actor portrayed the hero-worshipping son, a troubled youngster and an intelligent observer by her facial expression and her intense silent involvement in all that was going on. This was a brilliant piece of directing on the part of Paterson, exquisitely performed by a brilliant actor.

Well performed by Anna Cummer, with well controlled voice and movement was an unusual Aufidius, leader of the Volscian army. The crowd scenes and those with the tribunes, Brutus (Adam Henderson) and Cicinius (Cailin Stadnyk) were effective, well choreographed and very well rehearsed. The crowd of insurgents and well drilled of combating soldiers were excellently choreographed and well and precisely carried out. The fight scenes staged by F. Braun McAsh were exciting and frightening in their fierceness and speed, and very well timed.

Coriolanus was presented in the round, with audience on three sides of the acting area which was centred by a raised, stepped platform. Entries made were on all sides of the stage and auditorium and through the audience aisles.

Opportunities to see this seldom performed play are rare. It is apposite to the present time both in international and national situations and well worth seeing for its dramatic content and for this intelligent and perspicacious presentation.

© 2009 Jane Penistan