Shakespeare’s ‘Coriolanus’ speaks to politics of today

January 31, 2014 

Tom Hiddleston plays the title character in “Coriolanus,” a Shakespearean play about a general’s reluctance to embrace political necessities.

JOHAN PERSSON — National Theatre

Next up in the Douglass Theatre’s HD broadcast series from Great Britain’s National Theatre is William Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus,” scheduled to encore Sunday at 3 p.m.

Tom Hiddleston, who plays the title role in this Donmar Warehouse production, describes the play as capturing the conflict that so often accompanies service in public life, the inner war between personal integrity and the need for popularity. Allegedly, the famed poet and dramatist T.S. Eliot declared “Coriolanus” to be superior to “Hamlet.”

We can judge for ourselves on Sunday. The product of Shakespeare late in his career, the work tells of a famed Roman general who distinguishes himself by saving the city and who is subsequently persuaded to enter politics. Thanks, however, to Coriolanus’ disdainful attitude toward the plebeians, things do not go well.

The story, in brief, opens with Rome in a state of famine and the citizens angry with the patrician Senate. When word comes that Rome is threatened by the Volsces, general Caius Marcius leads an army against them and the city of Corioli. As the result of his valor, Marcius is granted the title of Coriolanus and returns home a hero.

Soon after, however, his attitude toward “the mutable rank-scented many” results in his banishment, and while Coriolanus once again saves Rome, the deed is not sufficient to save himself. Capturing as it does the need for national leaders to ingratiate themselves with the lowest common denominator of the electorate, “Coriolanus” clearly speaks to the politics of today.

Will theater fans stream to Macon from Atlanta and beyond as they did for “Frankenstein”? While Tom Hiddleston does not enjoy the following of Benedict Cumberbatch, he is nonetheless a rising heart-throb on the London stage.

Now that the news is out that Macon’s Douglass Theatre is the place in Georgia to enjoy the best of London’s National Theatre, I’m thinking that theater fans will continue to pour in from near and far.

“Coriolanus”

When: 3 p.m. Feb. 2

Where: Douglass Theatre, 355 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Cost: $20 adults, $15 students and seniors

Information: 478-742-2000

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