Moshinsky's Bard

by William Shakespeare

directed by Elijah Moshinsky.

Caius Marcius, later Coriolanus:
Titus Lartius
Menenius Agrippa
Young Marcius
1 Citizen
2 Citizen
3 Citizen
4 Citizen
5 Citizen
1 Roman Senator
1 Volscian Senator
2 Volscian Senator
Citizen of Antium
Alan Howard
Peter Sands
Patrick Godfrey
Joss Ackland
John Burgess
Anthony Pedley
Damien Franklin
Mike Gwilym
Valentine Dyall
Irene Worth
Joanna McCallum
Heather Canning
Patsy Smart
Paul Jesson
Ray Roberts
Leon Lissek
Jon Rumney
Russell Kilmister
John Rowe
Brian Poyser
Reginald Jessup
Jay Ruparelia
Nicholas Amer
Teddy Kempner
Stephen Finlay

In his "angry preoccupation with killing" Caius Marcius, later Coriolanus, was "repellent as a man" and "barely credible as a general" and promulgated the liberal and civilised General Sir John Hackett when aiming to get Shakespeare in Perspective (BBC2) on Saturday night. This Roman champion lacked the capacity of the modern military commander for regarding his enemy with dispassionate cool.

This view was unequivocally backed through Elijah Moshinsky's direction of Coriolanus (BBC2), the latest contribution to "The BBC Television Shakespeare," which presented the struggle between the sadomasochistic hero and his Volscian opponent as sweatingly erotic in its passionate hatred.

No Volscian conspirators were needed to assist Aufidius in his final liquidation of the hero. It was Caius Marcius himself who shouted "Kill, kill, kill," as the two opponents went into their last orgasmic embrace. As the sword penetrated it was as much suicide as murder.

Earlier when the champion was persuaded to ask the Romans for their support in his election as consul he was overcome by more than his usual self-consciousness. To show off his wounds as required would have been to expose his most private places, his darkest perversion. No wonder he was inclined to fight alone.

This interpretation, carried with such marvellous intensity by Alan Howard, still left his Coriolanus as the noblest of the Romans on view. Beside the envious tribunes, Scinius and brutus, and the time-serving Menenius, he was seen to have integrity. His pride and his absolutism were horrible but preferable to the shifty play of the politicians who depended on his dirty work at the battlefield.

Alan Howard as Caius Marcius, later Coriolanus

Elijah Moshinsky who has generally made the most distinguished directorial contribution to the Bardathon, may be said to have done it again. In stressing by continuous movement the superb unity of this play he has demonstrated again that television is more easily adapted to a story with an unbroken narrative impulse than to the pausing poetic profundities of the greater tragedies.

This twilight Rome was given a bleak northern aspect by lighting man John Summers, all the better to show that nobody is to be regarded without suspicion. Formidable mother Volumnia may be discovered (with depressed wife Virgilia) as figures in a benevolent Dutch interior but the dark fanaticism in her eye was soon evident. Hers was the root of Coriolanus's neuroses.

The silver-haired and silver-tongued commands of Irene Worth's Volumnia, the sinewy Aufidius of Mike Gwilym and the bluff Menenius of Joss Ackland all helped worthily to reflect back the towering emotion of Mr Howard's Coriolanus.

Sean Day-Lewis

Daily Telegraph, 23.4.1984.


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