If ever there was a metaphor for the stubborn and proud nature of the stereotypical black man, then it would be Coriolanus. Of course, the lead protagonist in William Shakespeare’s tragedy was in fact a Roman soldier named Caius Martius Coriolanus, but Sope Dirisu’s portrayal of the character was emotive, strong, masterful and familiar.
We were thrilled to be invited to the press screening earlier this month to see the production, which has a limited run at the Barbican, London, until 18 November 2017, and were left enthralled by the story line and Sope’s commanding presence on stage as the Roman soldier.
Coriolanus is a fearless soldier but a reluctant leader. He is pushed by his mother to pursue a political path, but that is not where his heart lies, and he struggles to change his nature and do what is required to achieve greatness. The people of Rome are struggling with the gap between rich and poor widening every day, Coriolanus must decide who he really is and where his allegiances lie.
As you would expect from an RSC production, Shakespeare’s language lives on and the beautiful turns of phrase added to the grand production. It was a little strange though to see that the wardrobe of all the cast was completely modern as the legend of Coriolanus dates around 500 years before Christ. But the director, Angus Jackson, explained the reasoning behind this choice in the brochure, he said: “This play about city-state wars and class divide is a story from 2,500 years ago, played out essentially now.” Indeed, the storyline was eerily familiar to the goings on in our current political sphere.
Standout scenes in the two hours and forty-minute play, were the poignant enactments showing the complex relationship between Coriolanus and his mother, Volumnia, (Haydn Gwynne). At once proud, ambitious and yet loving, their relationship was beautifully played out and were the most touching scenes.
If you missed Coriolanus, you can catch upcoming productions of Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and Titus Andronicus.