The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0261 Monday, 2 April 2007
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
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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