Entertainment & Arts

Tom Hiddleston's Coriolanus impresses critics

Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus. Photo by Johan Persson
Image caption Hiddleston has been seen in such films as War Horse and Midnight in Paris

Thor star Tom Hiddleston gives a "powerhouse performance" in a new London production of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, according to one critic.

Another praised his "fine" portrayal of the Roman soldier whose inability to compromise results in tragedy.

Hiddleston, The Guardian's review goes on, "conveys the hero's complexity" as well as his "reckless impetuosity".

Sam Mendes and Sir Nicholas Hytner were among Tuesday's first night audience at London's Donmar Warehouse theatre.

Image caption The shower scene is "extraordinary" according to one critic and "slightly desperate" according to another

The BBC's John Humphrys was also in attendance to see the first Shakespeare play the Donmar's artistic director Josie Rourke has directed for the venue.

According to The Guardian's Michael Billington, Rourke "uses the Donmar's intimacy to come up with a fast, witty, intelligent production".

Dominic Maxwell in The Times found the show "intimate and compelling", while the Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer called it "exciting and intense".

Yet Quentin Letts expressed reservations in the Daily Mail, saying the production's "numerous good points" were "diminished" by Rourke's "silly directorial touches".

Letts cites one of these "touches" - a shower scene in which Hiddleston's soldier removes his shirt and washes his wounds - as a "slightly desperate gambit".

The Times' man was more appreciative though, saying the scene would "please the MTV viewers who have just voted Hiddleston the sexiest man in the world".

Spencer also singled out the "extraordinary moment" in which his "lean, mean killing machine... takes a shower after the battle and gasps with pain".

Speaking earlier this year, Hiddleston - known to millions for his villainous Loki role in the Thor and Avengers films - said the play had "an interesting contemporary resonance".

Image caption Birgitte Hjort Sorensen - Virgilia in Coriolanus - plays journalist Katrine Fonsmark in Borgen

"Coriolanus is an impeccable soldier who becomes a war hero," the actor told the BBC News website.

"That leads him to be corralled into politics, an arena he has no place in."

The political arena is represented in the play by the wily Menenius, played by Mark Gatiss of Sherlock and The League of Gentleman fame.

The cast also includes Deborah Findlay as Coriolanus's fierce mother Volumnia and Borgen actress Birgitte Hjort Sorensen as his wife Virgilia.

The Donmar's sold-out production, which will be broadcast live in cinemas on 30 January, is one of several high-profile Shakespeares running in London over Christmas.

Jude Law can currently be seen as Henry V at the Noel Coward theatre, while David Tennant is portraying Richard II at the Barbican following its run in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Laurence Olivier, Sir Ian McKellen and Toby Stephens are among the many notable actors to have played Coriolanus on stage, while Ralph Fiennes played him on screen in 2011 film version that he also directed.

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