At one of the most heart-wrenching moments of Shakespeare’s brutal political tragedy, Coriolanus declares that “it is no little thing to make mine eyes sweat compassion”.
The same could sometimes be said of theatre audiences, now more used to the manipulation and intimacy of cinematic drama than the unvarnished immediacy of the stage.
But in Donmar Warehouse, artistic director Josie Rourke’s stripped down, muscular, moving and yep, filmic production in the Donmar’s exposing, enclosed space, spectator emotions are kept satisfyingly high.
Presented as a timeless exploration of war, treason, betrayal, honour and pride (costumes are non-specific, staging bare), the machinations of bloodshed and power are starkly poignant amid headlines of Syria and North Korea.
As is the pathos of a prideful Roman soldier’s fall from grace and tragic vengeance – played by Tom Hiddleston as a watchful, prowling big cat, coiled for attack and unwisely assured in his place at the top of food chain.
Owning the role as the fatally confident general, it’ll be no surprise to Loki fans that Hiddleston excels at cocky and charismatic.
And though there may be many simply hoping to feast their eyes on the son of Odin with only 249 other people, Hiddleston’s raw, emotionally intelligent performance – centrifugal to a minimal, excellent cast (especially Deborah Findlay as Coriolanus’ pushy mother) – should transport, quickly banishing thoughts of Asgard. (And if not, a stinging shirtless shower scene should please.)
Meaty, bloody (literally and metaphysically), visceral and affecting, this Coriolanus teases tangible humanity out of what is often a bombastic play, and is worth the fight for a ticket.
And if you can’t make it in person, then book a remote seat when the production broadcasts live to cinemas worldwide on 30 January 2014.
For more info go to www.ntlive.com (opens in new tab) .
For £10 front-row tickets released every Monday go to www.donmarwarehouse.com/barclays-front-row (opens in new tab) .
For more Hiddleston goodness, watch him (and twenty more stars) choose their favourite superhero – Batman or Superman. Or below that, our cast interviews with the whole cast of Thor: The Dark World…