Steven Berkoff
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Steven Berkoff, Gerard Butler

Steven Berkoff’s production of Shakepeare’s Coriolanus was the most penetrating rendering of a human soul I’ve ever seen on a stage. Designed, directed by, and starring Berkoff, it was stylized, spare, athletic, rich in mime and ensemble choreography, joyfully anti-naturalistic― and evidently influenced by everything from Brecht to Japanese kabuki [02]. But beyond the elegant stage design [03], superb supporting cast, and fine music, the real force of the play was generated by the organizing energy and dramatic presence of Berkoff himself― in a persona he has wryly labeled “the Berkoff beast.” That persona is impossible to convey fully in words alone, but we can approach it by focusing on his rendering of one of Shakespeare’s most troubling and eccentric characters. Berkoff’s vision of the Roman hero and traitor was grandly idiosyncratic. Here was a new Coriolanus― as a strutting, macho, campy yet thoroughly menacing Mussolini. Here was a man who― in spite of immense ego, martial ruthlessness, abject (and even at times comical) submission to his mother― came across, finally, as a man of integrity and (surprisingly) real tenderness. Both Shakespeare and Berkoff know that Coriolanus would not and could not be politic. He was a warrior― and nothing but a warrior. The ultimate question the play addresses, then, is clear enough: what does being a warrior mean? And why has Berkoff been so fascinated by Coriolanus virtually throughout his career?

Production Notes:
First performance at the Mermaid Theater was May 29, 1996

Filming Location:
Mermaid Theatre

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