Arts & Culture

Forget the action movie, try Bard on the Beach

By Lorraine Graves

Published 4:07 PDT, Wed August 28, 2019

Last Updated: 1:39 PDT, Fri September 27, 2019

In a departure from normal scheduling, where all productions at Bard on the Beach run in rep for the entire June through September season, “Coriolanus” opened Aug. 21.

In a departure from normal scheduling, where all productions at Bard on the Beach run in rep for the entire June through September season, “Coriolanus” opened Aug. 21.  

As the more intimate Howard Family Stage saw the planned ending of the Bollywood “All’s Well that Ends Well,” the set for “Coriolanus” went up. 

The play opens with lines that seem custom-written for today. In this not-too-distant dystopian future there is a famine. The rich and powerful become richer by inflating food prices. The starving repulse the well-fed, who do nothing to hide their distain for the poor citizens. 

Then comes the armed revolt between two neighbouring city states, both equally affected by the famine. 

With the battle won for her home town, by the fearless Caius Martius, her distain for the poor of her city is obvious. In tribute, those in power rename that seasoned warrior, Coriolanus. Played powerfully by Moya O’Connell, Coriolanus’s take no prisoners attitude, her disregard for her bloody wounds and general toughness makes her a poor victor and an utter failure as a leader of the very people for whom she won the war. 

Equally powerfully played is the opposing general, Aufidius. Marci T. House offers blow-for-blow, be it in one of the well-choreographed and lengthy fight scenes, or in a verbal match with Coriolanus. 

Yes, the military leaders are played by women. It meant few changes to the original Shakespearian script, usually just changing “he” to “she” and it lends a new power to the play which throughout echoes the disparity in the world today. 

At a sold-out performance on Sept. 27 most in attendance were the typical Bard on the Beach audience, middle-aged and older. But, this is a play destined to appeal to a new audience; those who love combat video games will relish the production. The blasts come with low frequency sound effects that knock the audience in the stomach.  With machine guns, hand guns, knives and swords those who love a good battle on stage will not be disappointed. And oh yes, there’s blood. 

In an evening where the troop seemed to still be working out some of the kinks, the top of a large wooden box fell to the stage loudly in the middle of a speech, a sound cue seemed missed and the magnificent rear-projection triptych that formed the background had the middle section misaligned with the sides. 

Young people would also love this because their sharper hearing would discern all of the words. When actors spoke facing away from the audience, the unamplified voices were hard to make out. Lastly, some of the cast used speaking very fast to show passion. Unfortunately, when the words come in Elizabethan English, a slightly slower pace, more akin to normal speech, heightens the audience’s comprehension. 

All in all, the cast is strong, very strong. As Coriolanus’s mother, Colleen Wheeler delivers her usual stunning performance. 

This is one play where reading the synopsis in the program beforehand will be useful. 

If you are looking for a way to introduce a young gamer or lover of action films to Shakespeare, you cannot go wrong with “Coriolanus” at Bard on the Beach.  

Runs through Sept. 15. Tickets: bardonthebeach.org/tickets/

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