The Crucible brings Shakespeare's late tragedy Coriolanus up to date with a timely and contemporary blockbuster of a production. Centred around a successful Roman soldier as he seeks to move his power from the battlefield to the senate, director Robert Hastie focuses the audience on the language and callousness of politics.
Decorating the auditorium like a modern senate (wood panels, gooseneck microphones and swivel chairs), the minimal stage design invites the audience to be part of the political process as we become privy to the machinations of government.
In the senate, the clipped accent of Roman politician Menenius contrasts with the fierce and direct speech of the soldier Coriolanus – highlighting the differences between power and might. This contrast is further brought to life by the inspired casting of Hermon Berhane, a Deaf actor, as Coriolanus's wife Virgilia. Her communication through British Sign Language (subtitled for the audience) adds a layer, providing a visible distinction between the languages of political persuasion and the physicality of love.
The stripped-back set is supported by strong lighting and sound design, as strobes, roaming spotlights and sudden noises replace the large set-piece battle scenes that the play is usually known for, to impressive effect.
By focusing on the intricacies of politics, rather than the battle scenes, Hastie makes space to explore the interpersonal relationships between the play's core characters. Stella Gonet brings a whirlwind of energy to her performance as Coriolanus's mother, pushing and cajoling him into the political life – while the military rivalry between Coriolanus and Theo Ogundipe's Aufidius has queer undertones as they engage in muscular combat that is part Jason Bourne, part intimate dance.
In a production full of strong, nuanced performances, a very special mention goes to Alex Young, whose portrayal as the tribune Brutus brings some serious "Gerri from Succession" energy.
- Words by
- Greg Povey