Andre Sills as Coriolanus, Graham Abbey as Tullus. ’nuff said
Well, not enough, of course. This play about power and the resentment against those in power, about allegiances and allegiances being broken, about a moral code that respects bravery and transcends man made borders and how this in the end is not enough in the name of love is amazingly easily transponded into our time with its snapchat, twitter and social media presence in everybody’s lives. (There’s even a snapchat scene between a Roman and a Volscian complete with smiley faces. Hilarious!) To see Roman nobles gathering around a round table, discussing politics, or meeting in “a public place” – a bar – is the most normal thing in the world. Add to that the genial way whole worlds are projected, movie like, onto a blank screen, and you have a feast for the senses, complete with clips where the actor is in the sidelines, but talks to a tiny moving robot camera and is thus present in front of us on the main stage, as if it was a war correspondent sending material from the frontlines. It’s riveting. “Just once I’d like to see it from the audience’s point of view. Because we can’t see the projections”, says Graham Abbey wistfully, which makes the performance even more awe inspiring, knowing that the actors only react to clues on the blank wall. Tech rehearsals must’ve been awful.
Martius is a great warrior. In the continuous battles against the Volscians he proves time and again just how great a soldier he is. His match is Tullus Aufidius, the Volscian, another “lion on the battlefield” who gains his respect. In Corioli Martius more or less single handedly destroys the enemy and thus gains the name Coriolanus. He also gains a headwound, a deep gash in his shoulder and a post traumatic stress syndrome that follows him home. (The scene right after the battle, where they wash off their blood is textbook PTSD: Martius doesn’t recognise his friends any more, recoils in a corner, eyes vacant, empty. So well played. At the same time Tullus is getting treated for another injury in his leg, one caused by Martius who stopped their fight to let him go get medical help. Mutual appreciation of bravery and skill starts here…)
Home with his wife and son, Martius is pestered by his mother to pursue a career in the Senate. Reluctantly he does, but even though he’s coached by senator Menenius and pushed by mommie dearest, his rash temper gets the better of him when he’s questioned by his adversaries. This of course does not end well. He is not only refused the title, two of his enemies also make sure he’s banished from Rome. There’s nothing left for him. He chooses the only place where he is accepted as the hero that he is… the Volscian camp. He quite literally offers his throat to Tullus Aufidius, (small aside: had he shown that kind of humility to the people and senate of Rome, they most likely would’ve granted him the post of Konsul that he – his mother – coveted).
Aufidius though has no intention of killing his adversary. All too glad that Coriolanus has come to join him, he welcomes the former enemy with open arms, embracing him as the worthy counterpart that he is. He offers him half his pay and admits he wasn’t that excited about something since he welcomed his bride to his home. The love he shows Martius is a physical being, real and tender and running so much deeper than just admiration for an equal. Brothers in arms, they walk away, while Tullus’ young Lieutenant quietly clears away the shards of a broken bottle…
With Tullus Aufidius and Coriolanus united, the Volscians win battle after battle, fight after fight, till they’re at the gates of Rome. By now though, a lot of the excitement has worn off – Martius’ temper and his tendency to take command don’t sit too well with Tullus who finds himself sidelined by this berserk. At least Coriolanus sends Menenius packing when he tries to talk him into a peace treaty. Rome must be theirs , after all.
But then Martius’ wife, child and mother turn up and even though he sends them away, too, years of indoctrination by mommie dearest (who humiliates him quite fiercely in front of his lov… fellow soldiers) take their toll. Coriolanus signs a treaty with the senate of Rome to leave the city undestroyed, his revenge unfulfilled. With this he broke the unspoken bond of trust and so much more with Tullus. Tullus, who knows exactly which buttons to push to bring Coriolanus to explode, Tullus ,who hid a gun in one of the drawers, only known to his Lieutenant. So when the time comes and Martius attacks Tullus Aufidius, pinning him to the bed in a ferocious attempt to choke him to death, the young Lieutenant knows where to find it and shoots Coriolanus to save Tullus. It is a hollow victory, though, because now that Martius is dead, grief is all that’s left for Aufidius who clings to the cold hand of his companion, crying.
Yes, I am deeply impressed and moved by how Graham Abbey and Andre Sills are playing off each other, adding layer upon layer to their characters and to the lines Shakespeare has given them. How mutual respect and admiration turn into friendship and a deeper feeling that shows Aufidius’ vulnerability in this his world of fights and battles is just amazing to watch. It’s only when Martius also shows his soft spot – not for the man, but for his family – thus betraying what he had with his brother in arms, that something in Tullus finally snaps leading to Coriolanus’ death. It’s a beautiful love story that has no future and should be mourned as such. Because in the end there is no win, just loss and sorrow.
Lucy Peacock is mommie dearest. Drool. Johnathan Sousa is the young Lieutenant, Tom McCamus is Menenius, Stephen Ouimette and Tom Rooney are the adversaries. The cast is therefore great. Robert Lepage directed and designed the set. The man’s a <expletive, expletive, expletive> genius.
Stage door: thank you Graham and Andre for the chats! 😊