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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: April ::
Alms for Oblivion
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0261  Monday, 2 April 2007

From: 		Charles Weinstein <
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Date: 		Sunday, 01 Apr 2007 14:35:16 -0400
Subject: 	Alms for Oblivion

Returning to Stratford-upon-Avon for the first time in a decade, I 
caught Gregory Doran's Coriolanus and wondered why I had bothered. 
Dependably slick, the direction is remarkably free of ideas, save for an 
intermittent androphilia/gynophobia--Coriolanus touches his wife only 
once, on the hand, but allows Aufidius to kiss him lingeringly on the 
mouth.  In the title role, the oafish William Houston lurches from an 
affected bass to an exaggerated falsetto to a sing-song rasp that verges 
on the inaudible.  He is innocent of wit or eloquence, and he 
unforgivably changes his penultimate line to "...like an eagle in a 
dove's-cote, I/Fluttered all your Volscians in Corioles." Timothy West 
plays Menenius skillfully, but with a fatal lack of involvement that 
robs him of vividness and warmth.  Janet Suzman would be a formidable 
Volumnia if age had not undermined her lungpower, and if she did not 
weaken her early scenes by inappropriately conveying doubt about the 
martial ethos.  The rest of the cast is adequate.

The production's bankruptcy is signaled by its resort to borrowing at 
crucial moments.  It ends with Coriolanus deliberately impaling himself 
on Aufidius's sword (Elijah Moshinsky, 1984).  The final tableau depicts 
Aufidius on the ground cradling the body of Coriolanus like a pieta 
while vainly crying "Assist!" to his absconding colleagues (David 
Thacker, 1994).

--Charles Weinstein

P.S.:  I subsequently saw the Nunn/McKellen Lear, which was much better, 
and had the effect of partially redeeming the time.  A detailed report 
will follow, when unredeemed time permits.

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