Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Triton of the minnows

I’ll fight with none but thee; for I do hate thee  
Worse than a promise-breaker.

I went along to Shakespeare's Globe on the South Bank this evening to see a Japanese language performance of Coriolanus.  It was my first time at the open-air theatre and the attendant irritations of mosquitoes and low-flying police helicopters drowning out the actors were more than offset by the price of a fiver for a standing ticket.

Coriolanus is my favourite of Shakespeare's plays for its action, its element of tragedy and - not least - its irascible hero and the stuff he shouts at other people:

SICINIUS: It is a mind
That shall remain a poison where it is,
Not poison any further.

CORIOLANUS: Shall remain!
Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark you
His absolute 'shall'?


SICINIUS: Go, call the people:

[Exit AEdile]

in whose name myself
Attach thee as a traitorous innovator,
A foe to the public weal: obey, I charge thee,
And follow to thine answer.

CORIOLANUS: Hence, old goat!

Senators, &C: We'll surety him.

COMINIUS:                   Aged sir, hands off.

CORIOLANUS: Hence, rotten thing! or I shall shake thy bones
Out of thy garments.


The production was very Japanese in style and completely baffling at points, even though my Japanese isn't bad and I know the play inside and out.  I enjoyed it immensely though and it was very well received by the assembled audience of tourists, students and whoever else.

It was certainly a great deal better than the film version which came out last year.

My mum, despite being a renowned boffin on all things Shakespeare, was somehow surprised by how homoerotic parts of the film were.  ("It was just like a big pride march," she giggled.)  She wouldn't have it when I gave my opinion that Coriolanus is clearly the most homoerotic of Shakespeare's plays.

For example, this from Coriolanus' sworn enemy, Aufidius:

That I see thee here,
Thou noble thing! more dances my rapt heart
Than when I first my wedded mistress saw
Bestride my threshold.

That does seem a wee bit homoerotic, does it not?  The film nailed its flag firmly to the mast by having the 'This is Spartaaaargh!' bloke in it, but there are other obvious clues:

DAN: It's even got 'anus' in the title.

MUM: ...

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A Japanese-language production of Shakespeare? Why not? I once saw "Trainspotting" dubbed into Japanese and had less difficulty understanding the dialogue than I did with the original.
TELL ME they changed the soundtrack to Japanese as well! I always thought the 'Perfect Day' sequence would be much better overlaid by 'Sekai ni hitotsu dake no hana'.
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