Thursday, 30 January 2014

Coriolanus ntlive - having a front row seat from all angles!

I just got back from seeing Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus via National Theatre Live (ntlive) and all I can say is wow, just wow! For those of you who don't know what ntlive is, it's where a production of a play is broadcast live to cinemas. We went to the local Cineworld and after that experience, we're seriously considering booking for a rerun of The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Nighttime (it's not live, but it was filmed live).

I wouldn't have missed going to see Coriolanus in the Donmar Warehouse, because there's an atmosphere in a theatre that cannot be recreated remotely, but I have to say, for being able to see and understand every nuance of the entire cast's performances, there is nothing to beat ntlive. It was like I was sitting in the front row, in every front row seat at just the right time to catch every gesture, every tear, and it was magnificent!

When I saw Coriolanus in the threatre, I came away thinking the best three performances by far were from Tom as Coriolanus, Mark Gatiss as Menenius and Deborah Findlay as Volumnia. I still came away from ntlive with that impression, they each have their own unique charisma that carries every scene they are in. None more so than the final scenes where, first Menenius, and then Volumnia and the rest of Coriolanus' family try to convince him to spare Rome from his revenge. However, ntlive also gave me a new appreciation of not only the other members of the cast, but also for all the subtle expressions and interactions that are not clear from the last row of the circle.

Virgilia, Coriolanus' wife has very few lines, and, at a distance in the theatre, I found her rather wooden. However, with the right close ups in ntlive, the veil was lifted and I saw how nuanced her performance, her reactions and expressions were and, I have to say, especially in the first half, she was fantastic. She doesn't have the long speeches that Volumnia has, nor the wit of Menenius, but the love she has for Coriolanus, in many cases a silent love shown only in gestures, is immense.

The tribunes too, who we could not see from our seats for much of the theatre performance, took on new dimensions - dimensions I wanted to thump (which I rather think was Shakespeare's point). I had found them bit parts, a means to an end when I could not see them properly, but, again, with the cameras right 'there', the art in their faces made me laugh one moment and gnash my teeth the next.

The cameras took me on a different journey to the one I had in the theatre. I was up high, observing in the theatre (although I will never forget the moment Tom stared right up into the middle distance right at where we were sat as he fell apart to his mother's words). With the cameras, I was there in every moment of the play, I saw the battle-rage in Coriolanus when taking an entire city by himself; I wanted to smack the tribunes as they plotted and schemed to rid themselves of the ungracious war hero; I so needed to hug Menenius as his world falls apart at Coriolanus' rejection and I wept as Coriolanus wept at his mother's pleas.

SPOILERS follow so here's a rather captivating piccie of Tom if you don't want to read any further :)

He knew damn well he had come too far, that he was going to die when he relented his revenge and spoke those words, 'Mother, oh mother, what have you done?'

And I'll stop there, because I could gush all day. If you get a chance to see this production in an ntlive rerun, DO IT - even if you've seen the play at the Donmar itself!

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