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“At its core, “Coriolanus” is the tragedy of a great leader, a war hero, who is thoroughly irritated by the pesky democratic notion that a politician should be accountable to the people. You might see shades of the current president or his Russian counterpart but, frankly, most politicians, especially those with a military past, come to have complex relationships with the “being liked” part of the job.’
“In the context of an antiheroic tale, it tends to ennoble the wrong thing. The near starvation of the Roman poor and the threatened destruction of Rome itself? Nothing much to moan about there. But the self-induced downfall of an arrogant autocrat? That’s a tragedy.
Or a slick one, anyway — and this “Coriolanus,” produced in collaboration with Mr. Lepage’s Montreal-based company, Ex Machina, is nothing if not slick. That’s an anomaly at Stratford, whose focus is usually less on machinery than on performance and whose ethos is usually more earnest. And so even though I found the production exhilarating, it also left me uneasy about its precious self-regard.
“Lepage is exercising his authority over a play that can easily veer out of control psychologically and structurally. At one point in the text, Shakespeare comes up with a dizzying succession of brief scenes so fast and fleeting that you wonder whether they have any value at all. But Lepage brings them off brilliantly, turning them into vivid snapshots with point and substance. Tracking shots and fades — astonishing in live theatre — show a readiness to reach into a cinematic tool kit dating back to the silent era while also harnessing it to an effects technology that firmly belongs in the new millennium.”
“The results are eighty percent thrilling and twenty percent frustrating. The thrills start early, with a trompe l’oeil whose nature it would be heartless to reveal…
The production does more exciting things with the hero’s environment than with the man himself. He doesn’t seem to be much for hanging around in bars, but for the other Romans, places of refreshment are their natural habitat. “Anger’s my meat” says Volumnia, after her son’s exile, and the production takes the hint by having her say it in a restaurant, a fashionable one where the newly triumphant tribunes have gone to celebrate.”
“Lepage has also embedded some psychological depth for his anti-hero, hinting at an unnaturally close bond between Coriolanus and his ambitious mom, Volumnia (a terrifically over-the-top Lucy Peacock), and a homoerotic competitiveness between the warrior and his Volscian general nemesis, Aufidius (Graham Abbey).
Aufidius’s literal homosexuality, shown in a scene between the man and his Lieutenant (Johnathan Sousa), provides another layer of motivation for the former’s later actions.”
“In an age both dominated by – and fascinated with – social media and the surging growth of populism within the socio-political arena, who better than Lepage and his production company Ex Machina to oversee a stunning visual marriage of classic literature and modernistic technique in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.”
“As the titular character, André Sills is fantastic. His Coriolanus is strong, stubborn, and passionate, but also damaged from the war he has seen….Speaking of masterfully portraying a character, another standout is Lucy Peacock as Coriolanus’ mother, Volumnia…
Alexis Gordon is heartbreaking as Coriolanus’ wife Virgilia; and Tom McCamus and Michael Blake also stand out as Coriolanus’ friends Menenius Agrippa and General Cominius, respectively.”
“In the end, the true surprise of Mr. Lepage’s production is that so many of the performances send shivers down the spine – and it was them I ended raving about afterwards at the bar. He’s brought out career-high turns from this troupe of Stratford actors….
This is one you have to see it in person to truly appreciate – and more than any other I’ve seen at the Stratford Festival over the past decade, it’s worth the trip, down the highway, across the country or, indeed, around the world. Full Review for Globe and Mail Subscribers only
“Rarely has Lepage’s reputation as a cinematic theatremaker been more earned: The action moves cleanly between locations thanks to textual cuts and edits, and the world-class design and production team delivers effects that should be impossible in a stage context (how to show action moving between two offices? Move the offices, in a stage simulation of a filmic tracking shot)…
Shakespeare aficionados will have stuff to grouse about: the text sometimes takes a back seat to the next jaw-dropping image. Lepage has edited heavily (particularly in the first half), with the knock-on result that it takes a while for Coriolanus to emerge as a character.”