Tom Hiddleston (Coriolanus), Hadley Fraser (Aufidius). Photo by Johan Persson
The last time I saw Coriolanus on stage was at Gainsborough studios in 2000. I might not remember much about the production, but one thing impossible to forget was the space. The film studios had been turned into a theatrical space just before their demolition, creating a vast stage in front of a vast auditorium. It’s interesting that my second Coriolanus experience is at the Donmar Warehouse, which is the definition of a small space with vast ambitions.
Intimacy has always been the Donmar’s focus: at the first scene of Coriolanus, a child enters the stage and draws a line on the floor. It could be a playground game but this is war and things take a different turn. Soon there is enough hustle and bustle to suggest civil unrest and bloody battles. (The fight between Tom Hiddleston’s Coriolanus and Hadley Fraser’s Aufidius is particularly forceful. In such a small space it certainly makes an impact: nothing like being a yard away from swords macheting in the air). Ultimately though, it all comes back to that first image and to close familial relationships. In a thrilling scene at the senate, the speeches make political points as much as personal ones, and it’s this uneasy combination that gives the play its drive.
I always felt an affinity with Alexi Kaye Campbell. He was born and grew up in Athens (like I did) and I idly like to wonder whether our paths has crossed and could he be one of the older boys we fancied from afar at the english speaking school next to mine? Which is an excuse to reminisce about teenage crushes but has little to do with plays (if you discount the fact that almost all artistic adventures start as teenage crushes). But I digress. The point is, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s work gives me a tingle of anticipation, not only because he is one of the most intersting modern playwrights, but also due to our common roots (and he would know exactly what I mean when I talk about this).
Bracken Moor, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s new play, is named after a fictional (as far as I can tell) moor in Yorkshire. It’s set in the cavey drawing room of a mansion in the 1930s, a mansion built next to a coal mining community. The play is co-produced by Shared Experience, whose previous successes include Mary Shelley, and all these elements start to paint the picture of a gothic morality tale. In fact, it is a gothic morality tale of private tragedy and public responsibility brought to life with elegance, precision and visceral enthusiasm. Try to resist spoilers, the less you know the better. Continue reading