One of the first things I ask of a play when I’m reviewing is whether it delivers what it has promised to its audience. Coriolanus Vanishes, by David Leddy, was a prime example of a well-executed play with a fantastic production design and a talented actor yet just did not deliver what it offered on the tin.
Described as a ‘tense, suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller’ I went into Coriolanus expecting a plethora of things but above all to feel invested in the story. For a play to thrill, to have you at the edge of your seat, the audience must be engaged and hanging onto every word, every lighting change, every prop. I spent the majority of the show waiting for the penny to drop, the jump to happen and it just never transpired. Leddy distanced his audience from the character and the actions unfolding and although this may have been intentional it went too far and instead alienated us from the story.
Part of its selling point was that Leddy has written a script that can be performed by both male and female actors. It was originally played by a man and now the role is reprised by the admittedly talented Irene Allan. However, frankly, I would argue nearly any part in any play could theoretically be played by either gender – but it does not always have the intended effect in another gender. Personally, I felt the script would have needed to be changed for it to be effective as a female character. The lack of emotion and connection I felt towards the character, Chris, was partly due to my inability to picture him as the female Allan was portraying. I felt the script dealt with him as a man and there were gestures, words and emotions that I would have expected to have seen from the character if she was feminine that were not present. Given the subject matter surrounding the cycles of abuse, I would have expected to see different approaches to Chris’s feelings and experiences as they would almost definitely have been different as a female character.
The production was impressive and Allan shone throughout the show but I felt she struggled with the script and reconciling her character on stage with the words and actions she was performing. The lighting design by Nich Smith and the sound design by Danny Krass worked together beautifully but the end product was not a thriller and the story failed to drag any real emotion from me.