Sheffield Crucible’s taut drama Coriolanus starring Tom Bateman has a powerful modern setting

The Crucible Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Roman drama Coriolanus brings the story bang up to date.

Friday, 13th March 2020, 12:03 am
An intense performance by Tom Bateman as Coriolanus at the Crucible, Sheffield
An intense performance by Tom Bateman as Coriolanus at the Crucible, Sheffield

Artistic director Robert Hastie’s modern-day adaptation makes the drama feel all too relevant with the working class loudly mistrusting their rulers, who in return treat them with haughty disdain.

This production feels a lot like Robert’s exciting production of Julius Caesar, especially because Ben Stones’ stripped-back set looks remarkably similar, with a row of seats again taken out so that some action takes place in the audience.

At the heart of the story is Tom Bateman’s laser-intense portrayal of Caius Martius, a soldier given the name Coriolanus because his reckless bravery carries the day at the siege of Corioles.

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His arrogance means that, just at the point his mother Volumnia and her political ally Menenius are about to win him the title of Rome’s political leader, he refuses to concede any demands to the plebeians. His anger is fuelled by the news that five tribunes have been allowed into the senate to represent the workers.

Volumnia is played with power and passion by Stella Gonet and Malcolm Sinclair is excellent as Menenius, the type of public school politician who knows he is born to rule but savvy enough to play politics.

Kate Rutter is great as the angry leader of the workers, who are manipulated by two of the tribunes – more strong performances by Remi Miller and Alex Young – into demanding the banishment of Coriolanus at the height of his fame.

A short-lived moment of victory for Coriolanus (Tom Bateman) and his m other, Volumnia (Stella Gonet)

Coriolanus goes to see Aufidius (another intense portrayal from Theo Ogundipe), the leader of the army he defeated at Corioles. They join forces against Rome and tragedy ensues.

The scenes between Coriolanus and his wife Virgilia are beautifully tender and moving and lend his character another dimension. Hermon Berhane is a deaf actor who signs with cast members as her lines appear on an overhead screen. It’s a clever and effective blend.

Overall, this production is fast moving and charged with emotions that carry it along well, although it never quite reaches the level of Julius Caesar for me. Tom Bateman’s performance is extraordinary, however.

Coriolanus runs to March 28.

A tender moment for Coriolanus (Tom Bateman) and Virgilia (Hermon Berhane)