In the title role Tom Hiddleston cuts a fascinating figure as the almost emotionless killing machine, single-handedly winning the day at Corioli against the Volsces and besting their commander Aufidius (Hadley Fraser) yet ill at ease when thrust into the general populace to ask his people for their voices to declare him consul. Hiddleston has fast become one of the faces of the latest wave of young British talent and here he is mesmerising. From his gore drenched post-battle visage, to a surprisingly powerful scene that sees him gasping in pain as he washes the blood from his wounds, to the interplay with friends, family and the patricians of Rome he runs the gamut of emotion while effectively portraying Caius Martius as a figure seemingly unaffected by what happens around him.
As the charming patrician Menenius, Mark Gatiss shines, wringing deep belly laughs from lines that deserve little more than a polite titter, while Deborah Findlay positively revels in the role of Martius’ manipulative mother. As Cominius, Peter De Jersey portrays perhaps Martius’ only true friend with a steady, reassuring air and his relationship with Titus Lartius (Alfred Enoch offering further proof of the amount of talent emerging from the Harry Potter movies) is less that of two colleagues than of a father and son.
Birgitte Hjort Sørensen might be a bit of luxury casting as Virgilia, but with a cut glass accent and a sensuous way of moving that caused more than a few jaws to hit the floor, she elevates a relatively minor role to something so much more, especially so when, in the second act, she appeals to her husband for peace.
I was impressed too by Fraser’s Aufidius. The gruff northern accent seems almost a nod to a post Game of Thrones view that outsiders should be from Yorkshire, but despite some overblown direction that drags any subtlety from the homo-eroticism of his obsession with Coriolanus, he stands tall opposite Hiddleston.
In fact, once you strip away the fripperies there’s really nothing negative to say about the performances here. If you can still get a ticket, you owe it to yourself not to miss out!