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Coriolanus Non-Transfer


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#1 Jan Brock

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 10:09 AM

I wonder how happy William Houston is that Coriolanus is not transferring to London ? In general performances in the provinces get quickly forgotten and when in the future people list the "great" Coriolanuses his name won't be included. At one point Ian McKellen made some disparaging remarks about London audiences and took himself off to Leeds for a season - does anyone now talk about his Prospero ? - I bet now he wouldn't do anything which didn't have a London season. Or how about David Bradley's Titus Andronicus ? What about Nicol Willaimson's King Lear ? Even Kennth Branagh's Coriolanus (Chichester) does not get much coverage.

RSC need to get their act together if they want to continue to attract big names - these people want London exposure.

#2 Jenny_tyr

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 01:36 PM

I'd say that London audiences will be seriously cheated if this excellent production doesn't transfer. If the RSC and their London producers don't rethink this and decide to bring this to London for the autumn season they'll be making a huge mistake, and it would be extremely unfair if Houston's performance is left out from that list of all-time great Coriolanuses simply because someone didn't think that this play has enough commercial pull for London. It has always puzzled me why this play is so underappreciated, and this production would probably make some people reconsider the merits of the play. At least some people will still be able to enjoy seeing this production, as I see that it's heading over to the States for a few weeks and then to Newcastle for a handful of performances. I'm sorely tempted to fly over to Newcastle for the sole purpose of seeing this again, and that is saying something about the quality of this production. I'm rarely that impressed with any production, and I tend to be even harder to please when it comes to the works of the Bard, but as the moderator of one of the liveliest Shakespeare discussion groups on the internet I must say that this is one of the finest productions that I've seen in years. I'm surprised that the critics didn't rate the production higher, but I suspect that it has gained strength and impact during its run. To deprive London audiences of the chance to see this is incredible, and the RSC should seriously rethink their London policy if their current arrangement with Delfont Mackintosh means that gems like this won't transfer. I'd even be willing to endure the awful seats of the Novello if they decided to bring this to London, but I doubt that they'll change their mind, so London audiences will probably never get the chance to see Houston's utterly amazing performance. Someone really has to give that man the opportunity to play RIII sometime soon, and in London.

//Jenny

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#3 tsaurus

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 06:27 PM

I saw the final performance of the Stratford run last Saturday and was distinctly underwhelmed by this production.  I don’t think it was bad, I’ve certainly seen worse Coriolanii (sp?) but it just seemed sloppy and not very well conceived.  

It didn’t help that the set broke causing an unscheduled break while they fixed it.  As for William Houston – well, it’s difficult to judge – he was clearly having problems with his voice and his hoarse vocal quality gave the whole performance a kind of pantomime air.

I’d really hoped for something better as the show to close the old RST – but at least they didn’t go out on ‘Merry Wives’ so I guess I should be thankful for small mercies.

And on the subject of ‘the provinces’ (hate that term as it implies that everywhere else is somehow secondary to London) …

I think ‘the provinces’ produce some great quality theatre – with or without ‘stars’.  Last night I made the trip up to Sheffield to see Jonathan Miller’s splendid ‘Cherry Orchard’ with Joanna Lumley.  I would say that it was better than anything I’ve seen in London for quite a long time.  I’d hazard a guess that it will be remembered long after some recent London Chekov productions are long forgotten.


#4 Jenny_tyr

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 07:26 PM

QUOTE(tsaurus @ Apr 8 2007, 08:27 PM) View Post
I saw the final performance of the Stratford run last Saturday and was distinctly underwhelmed by this production.  I don’t think it was bad, I’ve certainly seen worse Coriolanii (sp?) but it just seemed sloppy and not very well conceived.  

It didn’t help that the set broke causing an unscheduled break while they fixed it.


I was at that final performance on Saturday 31st and I don't recall the set breaking, or "an unscheduled break" in the performance. Are you possibly talking about the matinee that day? I guess everyone has different tastes, but to me this production had all the emotional impact that I felt Lear was lacking, and a clear and coherent vision of where it wanted to take the play.
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#5 tsaurus

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 05:23 AM

Yes, Jenny - I was talking about the matinee.  I thought that was the final public performance, but it sounds as if there was an evening performance too?

I don't think the production I saw had either emotional impact or political clarity.  I did like the basic colour scheme and some performances - the tribunes were well handled and Timothy West was better than I expected.  But overall I felt the whole production was a prime example of the sort of lazy RSC 'house style' that they've been relying on a too much in recent years.

I hope that the 'Complete Works' season will make the RSC pull its socks up stop resting on it's laurels (how's that for a mixed metaphor?) and realise that most of the imports put their own productions to shame ('Much Ado and 'Tempest' being the honourable exceptions).

#6 Jan Brock

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 07:56 AM

I was not aware that this production was going to USA. So, it will be seen in USA but not in London - and people who don't contribute a penny to RSC's subsidy get favoured. And before anyone jumps in to say this is a London-centric view, I was equally irritated by the fact that "The Tamer Tamed" couldn't play in Newcastle because the set had already been crated up to take to USA.

As to the production, Gregory Doran strikes me as being a Shakespeare director much in the mould of Peter Hall, he simply stages the play without any particular "interpretation" or novel insights. This makes for some good-looking productions of good plays and pretty dull productions of poor plays.

#7 Jenny_tyr

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 12:33 PM

QUOTE(tsaurus @ Apr 9 2007, 07:23 AM) View Post
Yes, Jenny - I was talking about the matinee.  I thought that was the final public performance, but it sounds as if there was an evening performance too?

I don't think the production I saw had either emotional impact or political clarity.  I did like the basic colour scheme and some performances - the tribunes were well handled and Timothy West was better than I expected.  But overall I felt the whole production was a prime example of the sort of lazy RSC 'house style' that they've been relying on a too much in recent years.

I hope that the 'Complete Works' season will make the RSC pull its socks up stop resting on it's laurels (how's that for a mixed metaphor?) and realise that most of the imports put their own productions to shame ('Much Ado and 'Tempest' being the honourable exceptions).


Yes, there was an evening performance and there were no problems with the set then. It sounds terribly distracting if they had to stop the play in order to fix the set, and I wonder if the performances didn't suffer because of it. I found the dramatic climax between Volumnia and Coriolanus immensely moving, and when Coriolanus congratulated her on saving the city, with them both understanding the consequences that this would have for him, it was a heartbreaking moment and it rang so true:
"You have won a happy victory for Rome;
But for your son, believe it, oh, believe it
Most dangerously you have with him prevail'd"

I wonder if there weren't in fact some minute cuts here, but maybe I was so taken with the scene that I just didn't register some of the words. Breathtaking.

As for this being a production that didn't offer any new insights; well, what's wrong with a solid production that respects the text of the play? I realize that I'm starting to sound like a grumpy old woman, even though I'm only in my 30s, but personally I'm sick to death of 'clever' directors that desperately feel that they have to produce something that is new and groundbreaking, and who for this reason choose to insert or invent things that aren't in the text. In one production of Macbeth that I saw last year, Duncan actually delivered part of the monologue from Hamlet, which felt a tad bizarre.

The RSC seems to bring a lot of their stuff over to the States these days, as The Winter's Tale and Pericles also went over there. Is this done because they can't transfer all the productions that they would like to London? Not that Pericles needed to be transferred anywhere, but The Winter's Tale certainly merited a London slot.

Btw, I agree that it was nice that the Merry Wives nonsense wasn't the last production of this place, as it was utter rubbish.

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#8 Polly1

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 09:14 PM

[quote name='Jenny_tyr' date='Apr 8 2007, 02:36 PM' post='7421']
as the moderator of one of the liveliest Shakespeare discussion groups on the internet

Slightly off-topic, and I don't know if you're even allowed to say on this board, Jenny, but is it possible to provide a link to this discussion group as I (and I'm sure others who use this board) would be very interested in reading it. Thanks.

#9 Jenny_tyr

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Posted 09 April 2007 - 09:29 PM

QUOTE(Polly1 @ Apr 9 2007, 11:14 PM) View Post
QUOTE(Jenny_tyr @ Apr 8 2007, 02:36 PM) View Post

as the moderator of one of the liveliest Shakespeare discussion groups on the internet

Slightly off-topic, and I don't know if you're even allowed to say on this board, Jenny, but is it possible to provide a link to this discussion group as I (and I'm sure others who use this board) would be very interested in reading it. Thanks.


Sure thing, just allow for the fact that we’re having a slight emergency with this month’s play discussion (The Two Noble Kinsmen) as the selected discussion leader has gone offline due to a family emergency, and we’re frantically reassigning the acts of the play to cope with this, which isn’t an ideal situation, having to step in and lead a play discussion without having time to prepare, but we seem to be managing alright at the moment. It’s located over at yahoo groups, here’s the link:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Shakespeare_and_Company/

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#10 Lynette

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 12:02 AM

Coriolanus wasn't that good; it lacked punch and the ending which should break your heart, didn't stir me a bit. Houston played it like he was already going to give in and they both played it like they did not know it was certain death. It was poorly done. And Timothy West fluffed his lines. And the set was bleak. And they kept running in from the back for no good reason. Toby Stephens did a much better job a while back in the Swan.




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