TRON THEATRE, GLASGOW
Reviewed by Mark Brown
Scotland-based theatre maker David Leddy has taken us into the political and moral complications of the relationship between Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears (Susurrus) and a brutal-yet-theatrical world of Victorian gothic (Sub Rosa). His latest work, Coriolanus Vanishes, is set in a 21st-century British prison, by way of the plush office of a company executive.
A monologue written, directed and performed by Leddy himself, the piece tells the story of Chris, until recently a senior management figure in one of Britain’s major arms firms. Suffering three major bereavements in quick succession and in prison facing undisclosed charges, Chris has had a colourful life of late, to put it mildly.
There are pen portraits of Chris’s wife, his adopted son, his dying father and Paul, his lover. It is notable that the detail of these portraits ascends in that order, from the barely outlined “wife” to the ever-present Paul, whose emotional tenderness, forceful sexuality and political morality are foremost in the mind of the incarcerated former arms dealer.
Leddy wears the pin-striped suit of Chris’s former position, and appears, variously, behind, on, under and beside the ex-executive’s wooden desk. As he speaks, the stage lighting changes constantly.
The desk notwithstanding, stage designer Becky Minto’s set is a blank, angular canvas which lighting designer Nich Smith bathes in bright and garish colours. Shafts of light criss-cross Leddy as he performs.
At certain moments Minto closes off our view of parts of the stage, as if altering the aperture of a camera. At others, Leddy produces various stylish, pre-digital means of voice amplification from within the drawers of the desk.
The effect of all of this activity is, perversely, to highlight the decided lack of theatricality in both text and performance. There is a certain crispness in Leddy’s writing and in his diction, but, with every shift in colour and shape, the clash between theatrical technique and prose fiction becomes more pronounced.
The script itself is also riven with contradictions. Leddy’s political observations vis-à-vis UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are far from original. Consequently, the text relies for its drama upon the writer’s penchant for the often seamier aspects of sex and death.
As to the title. It smacks more of an attempt to bask in the reflected glory of Shakespeare than any real similarity between Leddy’s character and the Bard’s Roman general.
Until April 22. tron.co.uk
This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on April 19, 2017
© Mark Brown