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Print Version

by William Shakespeare
directed by David Lawrence
The Bacchanals

at The Long Hall, Roseneath, Wellington
From 24 Jan 2013 to 2 Feb 2013

Reviewed by Michael Wray, 30 Jan 2013

Coriolanus is a Shakespeare not performed very often. Why? If this production by David Lawrence's Bacchanals is any indication, it's a hard-hitting tragedy that makes compelling viewing. Hell hath no fury like a Roman scorned!  

When Coriolanus refuses to show the expected humility before the Tribunes for election to the office of Consul, they manipulate the common people into rejecting him. Thus chaos ensues and Coriolanus seeks revenge.

With themes of Roman vengeance and triumphant generals gone bad, it's not dissimilar to Titus Andronicus, albeit a lot less bloody. Not that it's bloodless - witness Alex Greig's bare and spectacularly blood-smeared torso looking every inch the warrior king.

 Alex Greig is magnificent in the lead-role. He is powerful and intimidating, vulnerable when needed and “eyes to sweat compassion.” Brianne Kerr's depiction of the Tribune Sicinius Velutus is just as excellent, while Michael Ness' Cominius, Salesi Le'ota's Menenius and Jean Sergent's Volumnia are also deserving of mention.

Joe Dekkers-Reihana could perhaps benefit from playing Aufidius with less anger so when his rage is unleashed he has another level to use, but as a whole the company are superb. The pace of the play is measured with nothing being rushed and the scenes flow together uninterrupted by changes thanks to a simple but effective set.

There are some nice touches in Bronwyne Cheyne's design: Menenius eating a bag of corn chips when dealing with the crowd complaining of all the corn being “for rich men only”; the use of Dueling Banjos (a la Deliverance) to set-up one of the scenes; and the Tribunes being played in the likeness of the ‘American Gothic' painting.

The sound design is strong, providing a rich backdrop, particularly Jean Sergent's use of the cello, and the battle scenes are effectively choreographed. Thoroughly recommended. 
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See also reviews by:
 John Smythe
 Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);