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Culture: Setless Hicks warriors on; Coriolanus The Swan, Stratford upon Avon.

Byline: Richard Edmonds

All roads lead to Rome - but not if you are David Farr who directs this new version of Coriolanus. In Mr Farr's flat, unexciting, production all roads lead to Japan. So Coriolanus, along with assorted Roman tribunes, members of the Senate and a Roman matron along with an aristrocrat or two, are kitted out in pastel-coloured cotton samurai costume - an uninteresting pret-a-porter costume at that.

Summer-wear for warriors, you could say. The stage is a kind of lacquer-red, but the stimulation ends there since there are no sets. At no time do you get any indication of Rome, although you get plenty of noisy Japanese music.

And when Coriolanus abandons Rome for the Volscian camp nothing changes. So you have no idea of time or place. I am well aware of the old adage that an actor brings his time and place on stage with him and should be able to convince his audience of a location change.

But nothing like that happens in this production and the great moan of friends at the interval was - where are we for goodness sake?

Greg Hicks is a marvellous Coriolanus nevertheless. Mr Hicks plays the warrior as a kind of ill-tempered Peter Pan who refuses to grow up and accept his responsibilities. In a performance that is full of subtlety, he behaves with the aloof patronage of the leader of the university debating society and brings it off perfectly.

But the bit-part playing (with the exception of Tom Mannion's Velutus) is so thin and unconvincing that if it were not for Hicks, who is matched by Richard Cordery's fine menenius, the production would crumble.

As it is, Hicks conveys the mystery of his character very well, allowing us his audience to ponder why such a great soldier could fail so abjectly as a politician. Again, how did this man reach the point where he abandoned Rome and joined forces with Tullus Aufidius (well played by Chuk Iwuji) - join forces with a man he viewed as a sworn enemy?

But these well-spoken sequences are overlayed always by mediocre playing, and naturally there is Commander Perry's modern Japan to cope with where menenius in a flat cap drinks whiskey served by a scouse waiter, and where stenographers clatter away on old Remingtons as Coriolanus defends himself in the marketplace against the yobs.

Running time: 3hrs 15 mins Until January 25 then touring until May.


Simon Coates and Tom Mannion in David Farr's production of Coriolanus
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 29, 2002
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