The Long Hall, Roseneath, Wellington

24/01/2013 - 02/02/2013

Production Details

Like a flesh-hungry zombie that just won’t die, multi-award-winning theatre company The Bacchanals rise again to eat your brains with a brand new show this January! For their 24th show in their 13th birthday year, blood meets politics meets smothering mothers in Shakespeare’s most homoerotic play, Coriolanus!

Winning lots of battles makes Coriolanus the most popular guy in town, but when he is too proud to flatter the common people and let them eat cornflakes, the whole city turns on him and declares him an enemy of the state – but they are all unprepared for the terrible vengeance he decides to wreak upon them.

Coriolanus plays at The Long Hall in Roseneath from Thursday 24 January – Saturday 2 February at 7pm. The Long Hall is behind Roseneath School and St Barnabas’ – just get yourselves to the Roseneath shops and it’ll be signposted. The show only costs $10 and you’ll get a cup of tea in the middle; maybe even a biscuit if you’re very good! You can book tickets by e-mailing

As a guerrilla theatre company running on the smell of an oily rag that hasn’t seen oil since before decimal currency, we don’t have eftpos or credit card facilities, and you should probably bring a cushion with you and be aware that blood might go everywhere, front row. 

24 January – 2 February, 7pm
Roseneath Long Hall, 13 Maida Vale Rd, Roseneath, Wellington 
TICKETS: $10 BOOKINGS: or cash door sales 

Alex Greig as  Coriolanus
Salesi Le’ota  as his friend Menenius 
Jean Sergent as his mother Volumnia 
Kirsty Bruce as his wife Virgilia 
Joe Dekkers-Reihana as his great enemy Aufidius
Brianne Kerr and Walter Plinge as the scheming tribunes Sicinius and Brutus 
Michael Ness as the general Cominius 
Dasha Fedchuk as Valeria
Hilary Penwarden as Titus Lartius
plus Tony Black, Amy Griffin-Browne, Rosanagh Kynoch, Hugo Randall, Morgan Rothwell, Rebecca Sim and Lauren Wilson as the citizens of Rome.

Designed by Bronwyn Cheyne and Charlotte Simmonds 

Lots of angry people

Review by Michael Wray 08th Feb 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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Shakespeare play full of bloodshed and revenge

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 30th Jan 2013

The actors line up across the stage in typical Bacchanal style – casual and welcoming – at the start of the rarely performed in New Zealand Coriolanus: an unusual introduction to one of Shakespeare’s flintiest plays.

Coriolanus presents a picture of Rome that is in striking contrast to the picture Shakespeare paints of Rome seduced by the East in Antony and Cleopatra, which we can see in the forthcoming Summer Shakespeare production.

It is a tough play, full of violent language, bloodshed, revenge and the martial values of valour, honour and love of country. [More


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Gripping, provocative and profoundly insightful

Review by John Smythe 25th Jan 2013

What if a highly successful capitalist was chosen to lead a political party but refused to play the political game by pretending he cared about ‘the people’? Or what if a great rugby player led his team to a victory with honourable scars to prove his valour in the field, but eschewed the niceties of sportsmanlike diplomacy towards his adoring but fickle public? And what if, when they turned against him, he absconded to another country reducing them to mortal fear that he would lead their team against them and demolish their pre-eminence? 

This is the territory Shakespeare’s Coriolanus traverses, albeit in the field of war with the Volsces and back in a Rome where the poor are starving and want leaders who will see them fed. But Caius Marcius Coriolanus does not believe the ‘plebs’ should have the power of a popular vote. He sees their demands as rebellious, insolent sedition and believes the right to rule (and to food?) belongs only to the ‘nobility’ and those who serve in war.

Drawn from Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans (written in the late 1st Century AD and translated by Thomas North in 1579), scholars suggest Shakespeare wrote it in the context of the 1607 Midland Revolt where peasants rioted against the enclosure of common land. If Shakespeare’s land holdings in Stratford and questions over the legal status of land surrounding the Blackfriars Theatre in London (where The King’s Men began playing in 1608) helped to heighten his empathy with this anti-hero, the outcome still amounts to a powerful ‘cautionary tale’ for all who display such “soaring insolence”.  

Wikipedia suggests the first recorded performances were in the 1660s, reflecting the political turmoil of the time (e.g. The Anglo-Spanish War, the consolidation of the British Empire…). But whichever way you look at it, Coriolanus captures a state of haves v have-nots / privilege v the discontent of the disempowered majority / the 1 percent v the 99, which relates to many eras of history, not least the present (cf. the recent Occupy movements).

Having timed The Tragedy of Julius Caesar to coincide with our last election, this Bacchanals production of The Tragedy of Coriolanus may be seen as a follow-through comment on the state of our nation and the Western World at large. It also reaches back to American history by presenting the Tribunes of the People – played with hard-line determintion by Brianne Kerr and Walter Plinge (who doubles as the director, David Lawrence) – in the likeness of ‘American Gothic’, the iconic father /daughter painting by Grant Wood.

Along with a small stars ’n’ stripes amid the detritus of Bronwyn Cheyne’s intriguingly detailed design, the American Civil War (1861 to 1865) is also referenced in the western renegade costume worn by Joe Dekkers-Reihana as Tullus Aufidius, General of the Volsces army. (It occurs to me, now, that a pre-colonisation inter-tribal Maori Coriolanus could work very well in the wake of last year’s hugely successful Maori Troilus and Cressida.)

It’s quite a long haul to the Long Hall (behind Roseneath School and St Barnabas Church) – well signed and with cast members on hand to guide the way – and the old army hut venue proves ideal. Rather than the usual traverse space, this production opts for two rows of seats down one side which allows the aforementioned décor to make its statements and the all-important citizens and soldiers to ‘dress’ the stage with their powerful presence as the drama unfolds.  

The Bacchanals’ trademark conviviality greets us as they capture the Brechtian notion of parishioners presenting The Uprising of the People’s Republic of Rome Against Caius Martius. All is relaxed and jocular until suddenly an apparently arrogant and imperious Caius Marcius, yet to be dubbed Coriolanus, passes through provoking the voices of discontent among the citizens who feel they cannot be undone when they are undone already.

Alex Greig excels in the title role, finding compelling justification in every aspect of the complex character so that we at least understand his attitudes and actions. There is an unnerving integrity in his refusal to lie for political advantage and he even compels our compassion as he wrestles with his conscience while at the effect of a strong-willed mother, Volumnia (Jean Sergent), loving wife, Virgilia (Kirsty Bruce) and susceptible-to-conditioning children, Young Martius (Hugo Randall) and Young Martia (Lauren Wilson): all portrayed with deep-felt truth.  

Michael Ness brings quiet strength to Comminius, the Consul of Corioles, as he hands the trappings of office to his successor, which contrasts well with his despair at what it all leads to when Coriolanus crosses over to the other side. Tony Black adds weight to the ruling class as the First Senator of Rome.

As Caius Martius’s best friend and advisor Menenius Agrippa, and a would-be mediator and advisor to the people, Salesi Le’ota is mockingly dispassionate, fully aware of the dynamics at play and their inevitable outcomes when certain choices are made.

Other roles are filled by Amy Griffin-Browne, Dasha Fedchuk, Hilary Penwarden, Morgan Rothwell and Rosanagh Kynoch. All 16 play out the story with a clarity that must be accredited to David Lawrence’s ability to enrol them in such a thorough understanding of the text that all are equipped and aligned to their common purpose, of sharing its essence and intricacies with us.

Minimal changes of sashes, scarves and/or headwear allow for speedy transitions between citizens, senators and soldiers of the Roman or Volsces armies. Whenever anyone is ‘on’ they are fully focused and contributing depth to the action. The stylised representation of the battles, and of other socio-political rituals, is simple yet extremely effective. The pacing, rhythm and flow is spot on.

Coriolanus is riddled with questions of social justice, personal integrity, communal responsibility, the use and abuse of power … and as played out by The Bacchanals, it is gripping, provocative and profoundly insightful.

This deceptively simple and riveting production of a rarely produced yet very relevant play is highly recommended. 


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