Gone are the days where you could only watch West End theatre in person; now with the art of digital downloads theatre is so much more accessible. National Theatre live are taking the process of bringing people closer to theatre by bringing it into cinemas. Across the UK and worldwide, various operas and stage shows have been available in the cinemas and my first venture into this new genre of theatre in a cinema was to see the Donmar Warehouse production of the William Shakespeare play Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston in the title role with support from Mark Gatiss.
The production itself was absolutely fantastic – with such a small theatre space it was utilised to its full potential, keeping the set quite minimal and using only a small array of props (chairs were very well used, and I enjoyed the Brechtian style of having the company sit across the back wall for most of the play). The company itself were great, with several of them having dual roles; Hiddleston was the main reason I wanted to see this production and he didn’t disappoint. The Shakespearean language rolls of his tongue as if he were born to say it, bringing wit and comedy but also passion, anger and Coriolanus’ ignorance to the role.
There was some stand out moments in the production; it was quite physical at times, particularly an early fight scene between Coriolanus and Aufidius which was quite complex. The end scene between Coriolanus, his wife, his son and his mother was really beautiful to watch; you could feel the emotion pouring from all of the actors, with genuine tears from Tom Hiddleston. The end which sees Hiddleston stringed up with blood dripping from his throat is powerful and signals the end of a power driven play.
As well as the actual production being amazing, another element to consider in this review is the element of live theatre steamed into a cinema. It of course made it slightly less authentic, having carefully placed cameras surrounding the theatre space, but it also made the audience feel as if they were there. A movie experience but with live theatre – you wouldn’t have seen facial expressions that close up, everything’s a lot bigger, more focused. However that doesn’t mean to say at time there were some awkwardness; there was one moment which caused a small commotion in the cinema when the gay overtones in the play were explored in which Aufidius kisses Coriolanus. Of course this wouldn’t have been allowed in the theatre (or at least you would have got some dirty looks off fellow theatregoers). We also wouldn’t have had the annoying lady introducing the play and the constant promos for other plays but that’s just an outside aspect.
The thing that stuck out the most was the very end; the curtain call. Of course you want to show your appreciation, and there are only a few occasions I’ve wanted to clap or have at the end of a film in the cinema but this was live theatre – do you clap? They won’t be able to hear you so what’s the point? Nonetheless I clapped, and so did others, but it wasn’t sustained or particularly enthusiastic despite the brilliant performance. Perhaps this is where the notion of theatre in cinemas falls down – the live appreciation is lost.
A fabulous production, however and I left with an invigorated love for Tom Hiddleston (who has the most beautiful blue eyes)