All hail the mighty Coriolanus!


AN EXPLOSIVE war play of power and betrayal. Why take on the brawl of ‘Coriolanus’? Limerick Youth Theatre has much to answer for, director Tara Doolan more so but her team of 15 actors and crew are lashing into this enigmatic play that pivots on ambition.

Shakespeare’s brutal exposition of how power makes the heart a bloody fist is LYT’s summer production.

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Set between a contemporary Rome that is famished and the strategically placed Corioli, the current run at Belltable is until Saturday 18, 8pm. Come to quake. It’s an impressive production with lavish projections reeling us into the killing fields, sound effects that unnerve and fight scenes to catch your heart – and throat.

Special mention to two outstanding principals: Conor Bustos as Menenius who engages all diplomacy to save Rome and honorable/ dishonourable asses; and to Erin FitzGerald as the mighty foe Aufidius. Having broken her wrist in a stunt tumble before curtains up, the actor wears her plaster sleeve as a falcon’s guantlet and thumps into the enemy with vocal, militant ferocity.

Tara Doolan of Honest Arts Production Company (Waiting in Line, PUNT, Cowboy and numerous technical credits) pared the 163 page script right down to make a 2-hour play that is whole and credible for the actors.

We’re going to skim the storyline, a churning sea of military clashes. The eddies for glory and control are constant, as is the work ethic manifest in a fluid, articulate, angry-acting rehearsal. Doolan is a whip hand and there are lots of laughs.

Including her cast in interview, she says that “for these guys, this play is an amazing challenge, a complicated piece to pull off. They are really talented and it has pushed them further than they knew they could go.” The principals Limerick Post spoke with are David McGuirk/ Coriolanus; Emma Shanahan/ Brutus; Conor Bustos/ Menenius and Paul Langan/ Sicinius.

Limerick Youth Theatre rehearsing at Belltable following weeks at The GAFF
Photo: Cian Reinhardt

Playing Coriolanus with “passion amd intensity” at his core, David McGuirk suggests that the hero’s “intelligence is directed at war and politics, which are the same thing. He excels at the history of emperors and conquerors.”

There’s another fixation, the General’s emotional sway in favour of his mother Volumnia/ Aoife Breen over wife Virgilia/ Jade Mullane and child.

“Coriolanus does not want to be pushed to a higher power, he wants to fight, to stay at risk. He’s like a child… and he treats people as rubbish.”

David Buscos playing Menenius, oul’ mucker to the General, makes the point that most of these characters are antiheroes and voided emotionally.

Laser focus is key to ramping up tension between their factions. Timing is everything and tones are authoritative. Paul Langan underlines that “everyone in LYT wants to be here, wants to do this” and professional acting studies is the ambition of several.

For Emma Shanahan playing the imperial Brutus with luminosity, the rehearsal days of 9.45am to 4pm has allowed them to nurture characterisation and a command that seemed distant from their individual shy selves.

So ’tis bolder they are getting. There was plenty of verbal firepower evident in a crowd scene shrouded in the denial of Christ. In this Shakespearean tragedy more interesting than good versus evil, let’s see their drama unfold over the weekend.

Keying into us it invokes present-day toys for theatricality such as Smartphones, video projections, even hand sanitiser – Coriolanus makes a leap for it having shaken the hands of common people. 

Look forward to inventive staging with projection/ AV design by John Larkin, and Pius McGrath of Honest Arts on lighting, carpentry and stunt co-ordination. Emily Waters has made a mighty fine job of photography, stage management and film co-ordination.

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