"My name is Caius Marcius .... surname Coriolanus."
Alan Howard is unsurpassable as the Roman general, proud, ambitious, contemptuous of the common people and predetermining his death by his own inflexible will to be true to himself, and not counterfeit or bend to the wills of his senate or his mother.

The spectacular production of Shakespeare's tragedy by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Newcastle is again stark in its presentation, with pivoting wedge-shaped walls changing the aspects of the all-black stage.

This is a play about war, and the battle scenes, to the sound of discordant music, are brief but chilling in the slow clash of sword upon sword; and through them all the pale smiling face of Coriolanus dominates, as he does the whole play.

Terry Hands's intelligent dirrection brings out all the humour, particularly in the character of Menenius, played by Graham Crowden, complete with shooting-stick upon which he perches to give the fable of the belly. The vitality of the verse takes on new dimensions as Coriolanus spits out his words, stressing the final consonants in his contempt of the plebians.

Astride the walls of Corioli, bewildered and withdrawn before "the beast with many heads", crying at his mother's pleadings to save Rome from his attack, Alan Howard is the most riveting and magnificent Coriolanus that our generation is likely to see. No wonder Newcastle gave him the vociferous ovation he deserved.

Diane Harker

Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12.77.


Playing Shakespeare/Coriolanus