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Reviewed by:
  • Coriolanus
  • Alan Corrigan
Coriolanus Presented by the Stratford Festival of Canada at the Festival Theatre, Stratford, Ontario. May 6–September 23, 2006. Directed by Antoni Cimolino. Designed by Santo Loquasto. Lighting by Gil Wechsler. Compositions by Steven Page. Fights by John Stead. Sound by Todd Charlton. With Colm Feore (Coriolanus), Martha Henry (Volumnia), Graham Abbey (Aufidius), Nicolá Correia-Damude (Virgilia), Keira Loughran (Valeria), Paul Soles (Menenius), Stephen Russell (Cominius), Roy Lewis (Lartius), Bernard Hopkins (Brutus), Don Carrier (Sicinius), and others.

Antoni Cimolino's Coriolanus moved at a brisk pace, using lighting, multiple levels, and parallel staging to distinguish nearly overlapping scenes. The actors played for laughs when they could, but, apart from the battle scenes, there were only a few moments of spectacle, as when a Volscian flipped across the stage for his entrance in 5.6. The set and music were sparse for a venue with a reputation for lavishness. Many costumes mixed simple shapes and intricate materials, hinting at tensions between [End Page 108]


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Figure 1.

Clockwise from left: Colm Feore as Coriolanus, Keira Loughran as Valeria, Martha Henry as Volumnia, Nicola Correia-Damude as Virgilia, and Cameron Sprott as Young Martius. Photo by David Hou. Courtesy of the Stratford Festival of Canada Archives.

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designer Santo Loquasto's minimalist conception and his awareness of audience expectations. For example, the citizens wore shepherds' robes that appeared almost tie-dyed when lit from certain angles. Loquasto described the "laser-cut fabrics" he found at "a place called Spandex House in New York, which tells you what it was like: it was full of ice skaters and me."

The setting was "500 BC, the dawn of democracy," though the costumes were temporally and geographically ambiguous (an audience member whispered, "Luke Skywalker" in reaction to one of Coriolanus's). While some reviewers saw links with current U.S. politics, and few missed the evocations of the Middle East, at least one was frustrated by the absence of a "clear and clearly articulated point of view" (Kamal Al-Slaylee, Globe & Mail, 31 May 2006). Cimolino's refusal to voice "'the' interpretation of the time" made the production less about the connection between the personal and the political than about the possibility of any personal connections. In one poignant moment, at the scene change between 1.3 and 1.4, Coriolanus stood directly behind Virgilia before the shift from the domestic to the militaristic, suggesting the possibility, or perhaps the impossibility, of connecting the two realms.

The production was largely a vehicle for Colm Feore, who returned for this season to the festival that launched his career. In one of the video diaries posted on the festival website to accompany the play, Cimolino said of Feore, "there's some part of that man that's made of marble." Indeed, Feore played Coriolanus, especially as the play progressed, as a man who adopts a statuesque posture in an attempt to exclude frailty from his life. The opening literalized this image. The stage was bare, save a partially destroyed head that looked like the remnants of a large bronze statue or mask. The house darkened and a plodding minor-key keyboard motif underscored bestial panting. The lights went up to the roar of the citizens as flames shot through the head, foreshadowing Cominius's description of Coriolanus as "a kind of nothing, titleless, / Till he had forged himself a name o' th' fire / Of burning Rome."

While imposing in his military uniform (a less fetishistic version of the black leather of Terry Hands's influential production), in his "gown of humility," Feore resembled a barefooted hospital patient. The contours of his body were visible through the fabric. His vulnerability was accentuated by the contrast between his leanness and Graham Abbey's imposingly muscular Aufidius. However, even when he was wearing the gown, the citizens knew enough to back away when he seemed about to lose his cool. When Coriolanus arrived in Antium in his "mean apparel," he [End Page 110] resembled the humble but powerful stranger seen so often in martial arts films. He stood with his legs apart, and, though he was unarmed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1427
Print ISSN
0748-2558
Pages
pp. 108-112
Launched on MUSE
2007-04-12
Open Access
No
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