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Lessons in Public Office from Tanghalang Pilipino’s Coriolano

Now running at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino of the Cultural Center of the Philippines is Tanghalang Pilipino’s Coriolano. Directed by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, from the translation of the William Shakespeare Original by Guelan Varela-Luarca; this is one of the Bard’s political tragedies, and it must be no coincidence that this is being staged while we’re in the midst of mid-term election fever, making for a highly-charged, topical presentation. 

At the heart of the play, we find Cayo Marcio (Marco Viaña), a war hero who after his valiant exploits is christened Coriolano (conqueror of Corioli) and is thrust into public service. Evidently, this is a role he is not suited for as he looks down on the general public as undeserving of his attention or fawning, given they weren’t strong enough to have taken arms and joined him in the conflict that brought him glory. Raised by a single mother, Volumnia (Sherry Lara, on the night I watched), Coriolano may be married, but it is obvious from the start that the most important and influential woman in his life is his mother. Coriolano’s main adversary in his armed conflicts is Tulo Aufidio (Brian Sy); and beyond the pivotal role Aufidio plays as the plot develops, Sy choreographed the fight scenes. 


An intrinsic problem for any staging of Coriolanus is that while it is a tragedy, unlike say King Lear or Macbeth who reflect and go into soliloquy mode, Cayo Marcio is not a very sympathetic character, and he doesn’t reveal a hidden facet of his personality. He is a patrician, aloof and not very adept at dissembling. He’s a megalomaniac, whose military exploits have transformed him into a strongman politician and public servant—it’s thrust upon him, even if the roles don’t fit him. And given all that, the dialogue is more oratorical in nature; the subtlety, texture, and depth of Shakespeare that is evident in his other works is not that prominent here.



Grab your tickets now! PHP 800 (sides) PHP 1000 (center) CCP Little Theater #Coriolano #BayaniOBerdugo #TanghalangPILIpino

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But what makes this production so relevant is its timing. Being a war hero, or think movie star, sports idol, media darling; does not equate one to being a savior or politician of substance and note. Coriolano may well be questioning our choices of who get elected to office, and the reasons that carry these aspirants to victory. Even if only for that reason alone, there is an urgency to why Coriolano should be watched, and why it’s potent message and warning is something we should take home with us after we leave the theater.



Lead image from @tanghalang.pilipino