Not Just Any ‘Olanus – Coriolanus, Donmar Style
It was approximately five seconds into the hot topless actor’s onstage shower scene that I got my mojo back. It had been missing. I only realised it had been missing about six seconds into the hot topless actor’s onstage shower scene. (I actually think my mojo resurfaced somewhere during the sword fight just before but it wanted to make sure it was worth sticking around. The shower scene did it.) By the time the hot dude stopped having a wash, I had realised that I’d been in a veritable coma til that night.
Like a lot of people, my mojo had been kiboshed by the dreary season, the new year doldrums, the rain, the ‘what the hell am I doing with my life’ mini breakdown I’d been pondering having once the general malaise had lifted.
Who knew it just took a critically-acclaimed actor in greasepaint shaking off gelatine blood under a ruddy big tap in one of London’s most respected theatres?
(The actor has a name of course – he’s not meat in a wig. Tom Hiddleston. He’s done some stuff. People quite like him. I like him. He’s clearly been classically trained in washing and fighting. What’s not to like.)
So there I was. Coriolanus. Shakespeare. The Donmar Warehouse, Covent Garden. Theatrical Mecca and Mojo Restorative. The play was the talk of the town, not least because it had wowed audiences in Odeons around the country as part of NT Live. I was a lucky girl to get tickets.
As I left the box office, waving my ticket of privilege while the rest of London brayed outside, I could hear someone at the counter flatly refusing a woman requesting tickets. She wouldn’t believe him that there were none. Maybe she was Trevor Nunn’s auntie or something and was used to a special throne being wheeled out. As I wandered off to take my seat, I could hear him almost shouting in her face. “NO – I SAID WE DON’T HAVE ANY TICKETS AT ALL.” I don’t mind admitting it made me feel better about myself, my life, and the fact I had a seat and the posh lady didn’t. Maybe that’s when my mojo started stirring. Vive la revolution, dahling.
I don’t normally respond to the arcs and indents of the physique. If a chap flexes in front of me he is much more likely to get a yawn than a giggle, but what with this being Theatre I was creatively disposed – nay, obliged – to wolf-whistle as loudly as I could. I held back. Because it was Shakespeare. Everyone knows Shakespeare is very, very serious. Unless everyone gets a funny bit all at once, and then it’s ok to laugh – but it has to be with an air of deep intellectual understanding or you just look like a dog poo in clothes.
I didn’t know much about Coriolanus. I once saw an ‘adult adaptation’ languishing on a video shop shelf whose capitalisation of the last four letters of the title left me deeply doubtful that it had any blank verse in it at all. From my general Shakespeare knowledge I knew it had: some Romans, some fighting, and some squirty blood-jam effects like everyone onstage is a doomed doughnut. I’d never been desperate to see it. I like a bit more fairies kissing and stuff, or at least some hey nonny-nonnying before a nice quiet suicide. Not fake swords and allusions to bum. But Coriolanus had me wanting to charge the streets of the west-end looking for a (very artistic) fight.
I talk about the fit bloke (/technically brilliant demi-god of the modern stage) carrying out his post-battle ablutions like I’m some kind of knee-rubbing hot-flusher, but it’s all in jest. Mostly. I was naturally more enthralled by the dead good words that were written thousands of years ago when everyone had mules for tea and wooden teeth and stuff; I love the poetry and power of Shakespeare. But mostly I felt myself caught up in the magic of it; the elements of theatre that fuse together to leave you tipped forward in your seat, your mouth slightly open, your breath stoppered, and the nape of your neck just that little bit chilled. Enchantment that you simply do not feel in your normal waking-walking-talking life.
At the end, as the audience filed out I turned to my friends and saw we all had the same ‘silent wow’ faces on. We had that priceless moment that can be had in the darkness of a theatre before you emerge into the light and try and find words for what you’ve just seen.
The next day I woke and felt different. Feisty. Geared up. Like I could have taken on whole legions of oiled centurions with my breakfast banana. I whipped through my morning tasks, did a bunch of stuff I didn’t even know needed doing, FEISTILY. I whipped around with that bit of shining, almost inhuman energy we all got to take home in a lovely theatre doggy bag. Art had fixed me.
And thus, verily, forsooth, was my mojo reinstated. Adieu.