Thursday, January 2, 2014

Oh. That play.

Yeah, so, put a few of my previous posts together and I managed to get a seat to Coriolanus, starring Tom Hiddleston.  I had made efforts to obtain tickets through usual channels, and had failed miserably.  (I most recently saw a single ticket for resale for over $1000.  That's three zeros before the decimal point.  Three!)  But the theatre had standing room seats available for sale on the day of the performance (and any other seats that had happened to make themselves available).  I initially planned to line up for said seats, until I read that you have to get there by 4:30 a.m. to stand a chance, and some people sleep on the sidewalk overnight.

Aw, hell no.

Look, I really wanted to see this, but there is no way I'm getting up at 3:30 to spend half a morning on the street in London in January.

Still.  Part of me was trying to find a way to give this a shot.  Today seemed like the best day -- there were two performances, so twice as many available seats.  Also, it was supposed to stop raining this morning (although, somewhat ideally, it was raining overnight, which might discourage campers).  Besides, I was staying in last night, so there was a chance I could get to bed early.  When I saw that the first train from my local underground station left at 5:50 a.m., I made a deal with myself.  Getting to the theatre by 4:30 was out, but I'd give a shot to getting on that first train.

I got to the theatre just after 6:00, and spent the next four hours chatting with the folks in line in front of me, one of whom was a drama student, so we spent at least a couple hours comparing various different London productions we'd seen.  (Considering I don't live in London, I didn't do half badly -- largely because I was about twice this guy's age, so had an extra couple of decades of theatregoing on him.)  ANYWAY, the other guy in line with us was really nervous, as we knew there were 20 standing room tickets available for each performance, and he could only go to the evening one, and -- having asked the people in front of us what they were waiting for -- he determined that exactly 20 tickets for the evening performance were claimed before him.  We were pretty sure that the drama student and I would get in to the matinee, but the other dude was really sweating it.  When he found out they had several seats in addition to the standing room, and that he'd therefore get in, he was really thrilled.

And, yes, the production was all kinds of awesome.  I hadn't seen a Coriolanus since, like, the turn of the century (ironically, I'd waited in line for standing room and ended up with a seat for that one, too) -- it isn't particularly frequently performed.  There aren't any really well known soliloquys or anything in it, but it's an interesting play, and, both times that I've seen it, I've been surprised by how relevant aspects of it can be.

The drama student (whom I ended up getting lunch with, and then comparing notes with at intermission) asked me if I was going to review the production.  I'm not.  When I've been invited to review something, I'm happy to put forth the time and effort to review it.  Here, I spent my own money (and a boatload of time) to see it, so I won't put more time in to writing a review.

However, during the remainder of the evening (when I saw a musical of The Commitments, which is the loud, obnoxious musical I should have seen my first night in), the first paragraph of the Coriolanus review sorta wrote itself.  So, for your reading pleasure (and/or curiosity, if'n you don't read my reviews), this is how my review would start...

You may have heard that in the Donmar Warehouse production of Coriolanus, director Josie Rourke has added a scene, not technically in the Shakespeare, but certainly referenced in it, in which Coriolanus showers off his wounds after battle.  And, as Coriolanus is played by film star Tom Hiddleston, you might think having him strip off his shirt and hose down is just pandering to his not-insubstantial female following.  This would be mistaken.  Because it isn't Hiddleston stripping down, it's Coriolanus.  When you realize that he's so badly hurt he can't even remove his shirt without shuddering, you involuntarily wince along with him.  There's nothing sexy about this; it's painful to watch.  You've just heard Coriolanus's mother speak with such pride about the wounds her son received in the defense of Rome, and his battlefield allies have similarly cheered his deeds, but this is a harsh dose of reality.  You're watching a man covered in gashes and bruises, stunned by the sting of the water -- and you realize that war wounds publicly praised are privately borne, and there's nothing to celebrate here.  But while this is difficult to watch, you don't have sympathy for him -- this Coriolanus isn't someone you'd want to hug; instead, you want to keep your distance.  He shakes his blood-soaked hair under the water, letting dark pink water spray in a circle around him.  He repeats it, enjoying it.  It's brutish, and not just a little frightening.  This, then, is Caius Martius Coriolanus when he is, quite literally, stripped bare:  a beast of war, whose sole purpose is to wound and be wounded, because that is what Rome needs him to be.  And it is when Rome tries to make him become something other than what his is that this tragedy truly begins.

... available, by the way, at a cinema near year, on January 30 or thereafter, when NT Live broadcasts a performance.  See linkage here.

1 comment:

Lori said...

I am SO jealous!!