NT Live Presents: Coriolanus

National Theatre Live Presents


Directed by Josie Rourke
Written by William Shakespeare
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Mark Gatiss & Deborah Findlay


Short description: “Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s later plays; believed to have been written between 1605 and 1608 (the latter end of that scale being thought more likely). Like many of Shakespeare’s plays, Coriolanus straddles two genres; it is a tragedy, but it could also be described as a history play. However, it is labelled as a tragedy and is, in fact, Shakespeare’s last great political tragedy. Moreover, it is considered by some to be Shakespeare’s only ‘exclusively’ political play.

It tells of the life of Roman warrior and leader Gaius (Caius) Marcius, who is given the name ‘Coriolanus’ after his bravery during the siege of Corioli, a Volscian city (an event that is depicted within the play).” (Source)

This was my first time to see a play in cinema. And my second time to see an actual Shakespearean play, the other one being one played by high school students about 16-17 years ago and of course in Finnish. I have, of course, seen films based on Shakespeare, some of them even spoken in the original language. But I’ve never seen proper Shakespearean play on a stage. And of course, this was not actual theatre either but at least somewhat close to it. Kind of. I haven’t written theatre review since high school either so this might not have that much content but bear with me.


I promised to write this review in my first post of Man of the Day and let’s admit it; I went to this play because of Tom Hiddleston. And thankfully I did so. If in the beginning of the play, I was a fan of Hiddleston the Loki, after the play I am a fan of Hiddleston, the great stage actor. He is truly good. I wept with him. This is quite weird considering that in a play you don’t usually get that close to the actors that you could actually feel the pain. At least I haven’t before. Then again, I felt for Coriolanus. To me the character is a misunderstood hero. I read some pieces of Coriolanus on the web afterwards and it seems that he is much debated. But as a huge fan of truth and outspokenness, I could not help but admire him. And Hiddleston portraits the character perfectly.

Deborah Findlay Volumnia Photo by Johan PerssonBecause I’m not that familiar with nuances of theatre acting, I’m not suitable to say if someone overacted or not. I liked the character of Aufidius portrait by Hadley Fraser and I hated the characters of Sicinia (Helen Schlesinger) and Coriolanus’ mother, Volumnia (Deborah Findlay) but I assume that when I bother to hate a character that must mean that the actors are doing a good job. Especially the mother made me angry. Leave your children be! People should make their own lives to count so they don’t have to live through their heir.

Besides the actors I liked the production a lot. The staging of this kind of a play could easily get very messy; a lot of war, blood, Roman accessories etc. Basically too much of everything. But instead of that, Rourke has decided to go to opposite direction and there are only latters and chairs on the stage. Very effective. Colours, written word and lights are used to underline the story. I liked it a lot. The music worked too.

TomHiddlestonCoriolanusTo me, the biggest problem was, obviously, the language. They have subtitles but unfortunately they are so low on the screen that if you want to read them it is hard to follow the faces of the players. So, I stopped reading them and after a while I did get into the flow of the language. Of course there were a lot of unknown words to me but “thee”, “thou”, “hast” didn’t sound so weird in the end. I should start reading those plays of the master that I have lying on my bookshelf.

This was a new experience in a familiar setting. And I enjoyed it a lot. I will go see another play this way again, I’m sure. And I’m also sure that I want to see some Shakespearean play when going to London in the end of summer. Any recommendations?

Rating: ****½ (out of 5)

P.S. As a fangirl note; have any of you ever noticed how perfectly shaped bottom Mr T Hiddy has?


  1. Macbeth and Hamlet are both excellent. If you prefer comedy, try Midsummer Night’s Dream.

    PS. I certainly noticed the bottom too.

  2. Cool review! I’m a bit jealous you got to see it, actually. Your comment about the subtitles confused me, until I realized you meant they put up a “translation” of the Old English. Definitely helps to read the play first! I’d start with Midsummer Nigh’s Dream like Annimanni suggested – it’s easier than some of Shakespeare’s plays (not that I’ve read that many of them).

    • They had subtitles in Old English. To make it easier to follow, I guess. I’m not sure if all the members of audience were able to follow anyway, there seemed to be quite many Loki fans present. We usually have Finnish subtitles in cinemas.

      I think I’ll start with Midsummer Nigh’s Dream, I even think I own it. 🙂

  3. Wow! Lucky lady! I would LOVE to see this! Sounds really great. I think the above suggestions are great. Midsummer is very fun, and you simply can’t get any better than Hamlet (in my opinion). In regards to comedies, I’m also very fond of Much Ado About Nothing.

    • Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll watch Much Ado About Nothing as Whedon’s version but it has the original dialogue. And I’m hoping to catch up Hamlet when Cumberbatch is doing the main role in autumn in London (if I’m quick enough to catch the tix). I just have to go there again then. (Don’t mind though, I love the city.)

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