Coriolanus: Fight Like a Bitch
October 17th – November 18th
12th Ave Arts
The play begins in fog, with warehouse techno music playing, & feelings of intense anticipation grip us tighter & tighter. Despite an age of more than 400 years, Rebel Kat Production’s Coriolanus: Fight Like a Bitch is an action filled feast, and incredibly relevant to today’s political and social issues. 12th Ave Arts Mainstage is a perfect place to see a play. There is a catwalk-like stage which bisects two seating areas, allowing all in the audience to see all of the action on the stage – as well as fellow voyeurs across the way. It gives the performance an entirely immersive feeling.
Coriolanus: Fight Like a Bitch has an all female cast. When Martius starts to interact with her wife and child, I realized: wait, shouldn’t Martius be he, but they call her she, and she is she? My brain got confused at this total break from the norm. Martius and her wife are both female. The all female cast helped me to identify this bias I have in my self. In a recent interview producer & actress Colleen Carey (Aufidus) told The Mumble;
All-female Shakespeare is being done quite a lot these days. There are all-female Shakespeare companies in major cities all over the world… Gender is only one factor among many. It would be easy to assume that seeing or making a single-sex production would be a binary experience. The truth is, it is far more complex than that. Actually, the reason that I wanted to produce this particular play, with an all-female cast, is that the character of Coriolanus is neither a hero nor an anti-hero. It’s a fascinating social experience to see a woman playing a role that is not ‘likable’ per se; and when that beautifully complex female character is surrounded by other female senators, warriors and politicians (many of whom are also wives and mothers) a reflection of the modern world in which we live can be seen with a great deal of honesty.
The story reminded me of modern politics. The main character Martius is a political elitist rather is out of touch with the needs of the common people. Just as Hillary Clinton felt that she should ascend to the presidency as if by right, Martius believes that her accomplishments make it obvious that it is she who should be elected senator. Alas for her, to the people she represents the politicians, who live fat lives, while normal folks struggle to put corn on the table.
Nike Imoru brings Martius to life brilliantly. She is skilled on the battlefield, but the Martius who interacts with the public was cold and reminded me of a border patrol officer who acts like a dick, because it is their job to act like a dick. Then there is another side whenever Martius she interacts with her family, you see her as a child to her mother, a wife to her wife and a mother to her child. Seeing these two sides of the character made me conflicted about who to root for, the misunderstood tyrant, or the struggle of the people. The latter are fed up with the government establishment and reject it with the banishment of Martius. In Coriolanus, the people have to deal with the terrible consequences of the vote to banish Martius, like the British people now are dealing with their decision to leave Europe. Back in Shakespeareana, when the people realize the ramifications of rejecting Martius, they feel regret. It was a big theme of the show for me. Making a decision and regretting it, then trying to change it and regretting the change.
The play’s language is of course difficult to understand for an early 21st centuryite. I can tell the players are speaking English, but what they are saying is not always clear. With pure Shakespeare it is then up to the director and cast to show the audience what the characters are feeling and doing. The great thing about this is the audience has to exercise their brains to give the story meaning. Coriolanus is participatory, unlike popular television which tells you a story to be observed passively, we as the audience need to create our story along with the performers facial expressions and actions. Director/choreographer Emily Penick has given her players a beautiful space to bring Coriolanus to life and the show is a rewarding experience.
Coriolanus: Fight Like a Bitch is a truly wonderful play and I hope you will see it and make your own interpretation of it. Coriolanus is also great exercise for your brain, to work on empathy and imagination.
Reviewer : Michael Beeson