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Back from Coriolanus. All I can think right now:


Okay I’m sorry. I know. I KNOW. It’s a very serious play. And it is. There is a definite non-zero quantity of fake blood that gets used, to great effect. But goddammit people, I’m only human.

First off: these tickets were acquired by queueing at the box office in the pre-dawn depths of the morning. The tickets I got via Barclay’s Front Row are for two weeks hence, at which point Mike isn’t going to be with me. And Mike likes him some Shakespeare too, so he wanted to try to see the play while we were in the UK for Christmas. I wasn’t sure if it’d happen since I’d been getting a kind of scary impression about the queue. Well, just to add a data point, we walked over to the Donmar and got there around 6:50. We were something like 17th or 18th in line, and by the time we got in to the box office there were still a couple of returns seats available in each show for the day, and what sounded like a decent amount of standing room. The biggest problem was really that it was cold, so if you want to try to nab tickets and don’t mind standing in line for about three hours, you ought to be good to go. Just wear some wool socks and bring a book to read. (And if you go to the Cafe Nero nearby to get a tea to warm your hands, tell Bruno the adorable trainee barista I said hello.)

I’m feeling very scattered about the play in general for several reasons. I’m familiar with Coriolanus, but not as much as I am with, say, any of the Henries, so I spent half the time just keeping up and rolling around in the language like a dog in a nice grassy yard. And during intermission while I was waiting in the toilet queue someone who recognized me from the internet came up and said hi, and told me she likes my work and that just kind of filled me with so much squee I still haven’t recovered. GAH I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

Anyway. Coriolanus. I’m still really thinking about the set design, the sound, the costumes, all that. For all I joke about the aggressive rearranging of the furniture, that was used to great effect throughout the play. I’m less sure about the bit at the beginning, where everyone was on stage, seated at the back. It was nice in that it let us put faces to characters–which is very helpful since the characters have unfamiliar names, and many start with the same letter (eg: Volumnia, Valeria, and Virgilia, whom I ultimately gave up on and just kept mental track of as Mom, Wife, and Their Ladyfriend) which is the sort of thing that normally makes editors scream at writers but Shakespeare can do whatever the fuck he wants; he’s dead, and he’s Shakespeare for god’s sake.

Some of the sound (particularly musical cues) I found kind of distracting in a bad way, and some of it was very interesting, like this staticky sound that I want to try to track when I get to see this play again at a later date because I have thoughts. But I actually liked the moments of complete silence scattered throughout the play best; they were used to incredible, often heart-wrenching effect.

The costumes took some getting used to, since it was this kind of funky mishmash of very modern looking stuff with added leather armor bits, but that’s the kind of thing I can roll with. I’m not sure if I’ll ever forgive Coriolanus for causing me to have the following conversation with Mike, however:
Mike: Okay, so Coriolanus’s wife. Just… what was with her shoes?
Me: …what do you mean?
Mike: Just, they looked like they wanted to have laces like boots, but they didn’t. Why is that?
Me: I don’t know, I guess they were designed that wa–wait a fucking minute, are you asking me about women‘s shoes? Oh for fuck’s sake.

And of course the chairs. They were basically 85% of the set, and for all that I’m giggling like an immature little shit about them now, when you’re in the moment and just riding along with the actors it’s excellent stuff. The chairs do a lot of actual furniture duty, but they also play walls, shields, objects waved in the air in celebration, etc. They got kicked and thrown around by the actors, and I can say with all conviction that I saw no stunt chairs being used. Hardest working furniture in London, hands down. That the chairs didn’t get a credit in the program book really makes the entire exercise a sham.

Okay Rachael stop being an asshole now

Mixed feelings on some of that or no, it was very visually interesting. And of course since it was the Donmar (god I love that theater), we were all practically sitting on the stage anyway so you could see everything.

I’m going to go on and on randomly about story and character a bit now, so… spoilers I guess? But come on, it’s not like we all don’t already know how the play ends. Or at least you know if you’ve read it, which I always recommend you do first when you’re going in for Shakespeare unless your bard-fu is strong. (And if it is that strong, you’ve probably already read it, eh?)

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Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 29th, 2013 08:56 am (UTC)
Bless you for this review, I have kept away from reading too many reviews on Tumblr because they never speak about the production itself or the other actors, they mostly talk about Tom and the shower scene. Not that I don't appreciate the man but when no one really talks about how he handles the character and focus only on the sex appeal, it gets very depressing.

I am looking forward to seeing this in the big screen as part of National Theater Live.
Dec. 29th, 2013 09:20 am (UTC)
That. Has been driving me crazy. The play is fantastically done, the entire cast is awesome and yeah. I actually made the mistake of checking the Coriolanus tumblr tag and like three posts above mine was one that basically said ZOMG SHOWER AND THEN IN THIS OTHER SCENE HE WEARS A KIND OF SEE-THROUGH THING AND YOU CAN SEE HIS WANG. (Which is wishful thinking, by the way.) But Jesus fucking Christ, if that's all you come away from that production with, you have my pity. There is SO MUCH in that play, about pride, about the fickleness of public opinion, about the inadvisability of making warriors the keepers of peace, about the destructive way people take from their icons without the expectation that they are human. JUST GAH. I could go on and on. I probably will go on and on more when I see it again since I'm going to be paying attention to different things that time.

You will love it, I think.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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