"this Martius is grown from man to dragon ..."

 

Coriolanus photo (c) The Bacchanals

coriolanus

by William Shakespeare

Thursday 24 January - Saturday 2 February 2013
The Long Hall, Roseneath, Wellington

Like a flesh-hungry zombie that just won’t die, multi-award-winning theatre company The Bacchanals rise again to eat your brains with a brand new show this January!  For their 24th show in their 13th birthday year, blood meets politics meets smothering mothers in Shakespeare’s most homoerotic play, Coriolanus!

Winning lots of battles makes Coriolanus the most popular guy in town, but when he is too proud to flatter the common people and let them eat cornflakes, the whole city turns on him and declares him an enemy of the state – but they are all unprepared for the terrible vengeance he decides to wreak upon them.

 

cast
Alex Greig (Caius Martius), Amy Griffin-Browne (First Citizen), Brianne Kerr (Sicinius), Dasha Fedchuk (Valeria), Hilary Penwarden (Titus Lartius), Hugo Randall (Young Martius), Jean Sergent (Volumnia), Joe Dekkers-Reihana (Tullus Aufidius), Kirsty Bruce (Virgilia), Lauren Wilson (Messenger), Michael Ness (Cominius), Morgan Rothwell (First Corioles Senator), Rosanagh Kynoch (Gentlewoman), Salesi Le'ota (Menenius), Tony Black (First Senator), Walter Plinge (Brutus)

Citizens, Senators, Roman Soldiers, Volscian Soldiers, Messengers, Attendants played by members of the company

Designer Bronwyn Cheyne
 Lettering Jean Sergent
 Dance Captain Hilary Penwarden
 Associate Producer (Frocks) Charlotte Simmonds
Transport Captain Michael Ness
Additional Sewing Jean Sergent, Rosanagh Kynoch
Chemical Engineer & Head Mechanist Alex Greig
Structural Engineer Joe Dekkers-Reihana
Publicity Brianne Kerr
Graphic Design Santa’s Little Helper
Directed by David Lawrence


Perhaps the funniest thing about Coriolanus being not just my favourite Bacchanals show but my favourite production of anything I've ever done is that by the time we came to make it, I'd spent 15 years telling people it was my least favourite Shakespeare play and one I had no interest in. I'd read it once in 1997 over a series of train trips to and from Porirua when I was playing in the band for a musical being staged out there and found its wash of ancient Roman politics dense and impenetrable and the title character imperceptible. I'd seen an interminable student production of it in 2001 where, aside from the fight sequences, I had no idea what was going on or what the story was about. How, then, did this end up being the first Bacchanals production in our greatest year, 2013?

As you'll have read elsewhere on this website I was hugely revitalised by the work The Bacchanals did in 2011 and during Julius Caesar everyone wanted to know what Shakespeare we were doing next. I was at a loss because I felt at the end of the road: when I did King Lear in 2007, that was Mount Everest scaled and what do you climb after that? In turning to doing huge productions with mostly-student casts for Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor I'd found something resembling a new direction. Julius Caesar was timely because of the election, but had felt like a throwback to older shabbier Bacchanals shows and I knew I was capable of much stronger work than that. But I was struggling to find a play I felt passionate about that would both appeal to the company, have some commercial viability, and challenge me as a director to up my game. And because the original plan was that it be a touring show, it had to be a low-tech, fit-in-the-back-of-a-car play. So during Julius Caesar I made a shortlist of ten viable plays I hadn't looked at in a long time and started re-reading them, and for fun I decided to play them off against each other on The Bacchanals' blog, which had been around since 2009 but I'd suddenly taken an interest in until I realised in early-2012 that the Twitter account enabled me to express myself more succinctly and immediately. I re-read All's Well That Ends Well (a play I always thought we could do quickly and easily), King John (too boring), Antony and Cleopatra (likely out of the running since it was probably going to be the Summer Shakespeare show for 2013), Troilus and Cressida (definitely out of the running due to Ngākau Toa's production playing in the 2012 Arts Festival), Edward III (aside from the novelty value of it never having been performed in New Zealand, not a lot to recommend it), Timon of Athens (one of my favourite plays, but a play no one else was fond of), Cymbeline, Pericles (always the bridesmaid in terms of potential touring Bacchanals shows), The Merchant of Venice (never a play I could at the time get excited about) and Much Ado About Nothing (a hit for sure, but did I have anything new to say about the play?). At the time I had a specific agenda and the on-the-blog play-offs were designed to generate a bit of drama as I think I was ultimately going to persuade everyone on Timon of Athens, but then a peculiar thing happened: the act of re-reading Shakespeare plays put me in the headspace to re-read more Shakespeare plays—I'd only ever read Sir Thomas More the one time, it was years since I'd read or seen The Comedy of Errors, and poor old Richard II always got neglected in favour of the other History plays—and I took Coriolanus off the shelf for the first time in over a decade. And I couldn't believe how good it was.

Coriolanus (c) The Bacchanals Why such a radical change of heart? Two reasons: one, my absolute favourite story is the one where someone goes from being the most popular guy in town to becoming public enemy number one overnight. Durrenmatt's The Visit, Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, the Lars von Trier film Dogville—I love those stories of how a hero can remain absolutely unchanged while mob mentality completely changes everyone else's view of them. All of my limited encounters with Coriolanus talked about it as a 'Roman' play and never as a 'fall from grace because of mob mentality' parable. I'm sure our eventual presenting of it as a play-within-a-play-put-on-by-townspeople was fuelled by my desire to make it as un-Roman as possible and to play up the elements that reminded me of Durrenmatt and Ibsen. The second thing to prompt my change of heart: as a fan of Shakespeare's plays, I'd been in a real conundrum since 1999 when, partway through reading Act One of Henry VIII, I realised: "Hang on—once I finish reading this play, that's it: the canon is complete and I'll never again get to experience a Shakespeare play in the theatre where I don't know every single thing that's going to happen!" The notion of encountering something 'spoiler-free' was a new concept to me having grown up in New Zealand of the 1970s/1980s where most major television shows and films arrived here long after the rest of the world had seen them. By the time Return of the Jedi was released in NZ cinemas, for example, I'd already read the novelisation, comic book adaptation, storybook and listened to the audio storybook and the soundtrack about 50 times each—in other words, when I finally saw the film in the cinema I already knew every line of dialogue and everything that was going to happen in it. I'd been a passionate Doctor Who fan since I was three years old and an avid reader of the huge range of Target novelisations of the TV serials—I was fourteen years old before I saw an episode of Doctor Who where I hadn't read the book beforehand and therefore didn't know what was going to happen. It never occurred to me that this was not how such things were meant to be watched, and it wasn't until I began watching The Sopranos in the early-2000s that I understood the joy of experiencing a work of art where you had no idea what might happen next. When I wrote about the 2009 Victoria University production of Gary Taylor's reconstruction of Cardenio for Gary Taylor & David Carnegie's book The Quest For Cardenio in 2010, my main focus was on the novelty of being able to experience a 'new' Shakespeare play without 400 years of cultural, historical and theatrical baggage where I didn't know what was going to happen next. Aside from recalling conflict between the Romans and the Volsces, and between Coriolanus and the Citizens, and knowing that there was something to do with his overbearing mother, I couldn't remember anything at all about the play when I re-read it on Boxing Day 2011. I don't think I've ever had a more thrilling experience reading Shakespeare, particularly around the trial that concludes with Caius Martius screaming "I banish YOU!" in Act Three, his appearance before Tullus Aufidius and Aufidius' embracing of him in Act Four, and his breakdown after Volumnia's entreaty in the final act. Caius Martius was unlikeable, sure, but I could see a very clear throughline of what happens when someone is brought up to believe you are better than everyone else while also being pressured constantly by his mother to achieve more and more: you're the greatest living soldier in the world? fine, but I won't be happy until you're president. To be told his whole life don't compromise, don't negotiate, don't show weakness, take no prisoners, spare no one—and then at the play's climax to have his mother tell him "Everything I've ever told you is wrong. Have mercy on us" and his tears be the thing that turns the Volsces against him and results in his murder—what I'd dismissed years earlier as dense and impenetrable I now realised was so complex and compelling. I spent some time afterwards in shock—was this really the Shakespeare I wanted to do next? It didn't meet any of the original criteria—it was an un-tourable, long, massive cast play that clearly needed to be in a fixed space and done on an epic scale. But nothing else excited me as much.

As we opened Other People's Wars in April 2012, we also announced that Coriolanus would be the next Bacchanals production. I'd held out on confirming it until I'd been able to see the recent Ralph Fiennes film: I knew it was modern dress and that there was a very real chance that every idea I had for a stage production might already have been snatched up (I remember how many elements of our 2002 Hamlet might have looked like we'd stolen them from Michael Almerydia's film even though none of us saw it until after the production had closed). Certainly all of my original plans—modern dress, modern election imagery, Menenius as political spin-doctor, armies in camouflage pants etc.—were scuppered, but its characterising of Caius Martius as a shellshocked and desensitised soldier wasn't in line with my thinking, and all the moments that had affected me most when I read it, particularly in the Caius Martius-Tullus Aufidius relationship, didn't have anything like the effect I'd imagined. So while I needed to rethink my visual approach, I knew that my psychological and emotional reading of the play was sufficiently different enough for it not to look like we were just cashing in on the Fiennes film meaning people were suddenly familiar with the otherwise-obscure play. But modern 21st century dress was off the table, and that's how I serendipitously arrived at Grant Wood as a visual reference point and the Long Hall as a venue.

The Threshers Over the past few years I'd been less and less enthusiastic about traditional theatre spaces and more and more enamoured of found spaces and community halls. Initially Coriolanus felt like a play that needed a big industrial space where things could be very dark and you could do big expressionist shadow-casting lighting and lots of banging on scaffolding, but the show was going to be in summer and I wanted to enjoy the sun and outdoors, not be trapped in a basement. I was also, as someone who had in recent years taken up playing the banjo and mandolin, becoming increasingly interested in what Slow Boat Records called 'Americana' and a lifetime of 1960s-music-diehardism had given way to listening to more folk, bluegrass and country than I'd ever thought I'd be a fan of. Reading the conflicts over grain in the opening scene of Coriolanus through the lens of my musical interests made me think of corn, and corn made me think of Iowa, and Iowa made me think of the art of Grant Wood and 1930s Regionalism. I spent a long time looking at artwork from the Regionalist movement, which encompassed American rural life, the Great Depression, and the onset of the second World War, and it seemed to me that there was a visual reading of Coriolanus in it, as well as a useful framing device for the show: what if the play were being performed by the Townswomen's Guild of a local parish in a rural mid-west US town in the 1930s? That way Rome could feel more like a community and less like an empire; scenes I might have staged in 21st century modern dress became 1930s modern dress; anything non-Roman could be presented with eclecticism that didn't look so random (the Volscian senators were dressed as Biblical wise men, for instance, because they were recycling costumes that had originally been made by the same Townswomen's Guild for their Christmas nativity play); all the weapons and props could be 1930s farming tools and instruments; Helix Welder by Grant Wood and because it was a play-within-a-play we could have abstract staging of battle scenes and crowd scenes—while Caius Martius and Tullus Aufidius fought viciously and realistically, spear versus gladius, while drums pounded, the Roman army fought the Volsces in stylised slow motion to a cello score. And there were lots of visual references to Regionalist artwork, some subtle (all the citizens were dressed as people from Grant Wood paintings), some not so (as the tribunes Brutus and Sicinius, Brianne and I were dressed as the American Gothic couple Grant Wood modelled on his sister and his dentist). And this aesthetic determined that the choice of venue be the Long Hall.

The Long Hall was a decommissioned army barracks at Point Jerningham in Roseneath, a 20 minute walk from my house in Hataitai, and with a saluting battery that had an incredible view of the harbour and the city. It was also just about the most exposed vista in the whole country and the wind, the night we performed Julius Caesar there in 2011, had been near-deafening as it tore through the old, cold building. Jennifer Shennan and the committee who managed the Long Hall were extremely protective of the building and the community around it, after a few bad cases of hirers trashing the building and upsetting the nearby residents, but The Bacchanals quickly won Jennifer's trust and we became active members of the Long Hall community, not just participating in regular Renaissance dance classes and gamelan orchestra recitals but helping dig trenches and all the various other working bee tasks that were involved with the long and slow restoration of the building. As its name suggested, the Long Hall was a really, really long hall, not much more than 8 metres wide but about 30 metres in length. There was enough seating for us to be able to fit 80-100 people in if we sat them in two rows along the west wall facing away from the big bay windows. We performed Coriolanus in a staging style I called 'extreme cinemascope'—it was sort of like a long traverse but with the audience on just one side of the traverse. For all our fears about the wind, January 2013 turned out to be an oddly amazing-for-Wellington month and every night of the run was calm and warm and beautiful, interval falling just in time for the audience to go outside and watch the sun setting, and after every performance the core Bacchanals sat outside with a cask of wine overlooking the harbour and depressurising before Kirsty and I then dragged the Hong Kong shopper full of everyone's bloodied costumes home to wash and hang out on the line before the next day's performance.

There was never any doubt that Alex would play Caius Martius and it was the performance of his life. Based on the experience of my Summer Shakespeare production of Henry V, I knew how well Alex could carry a show and have a company in awe of him, but his work in Coriolanus was on another planet. While everyone else got to have fun running around trying to remember which expressionist crowd sequence came next, and being able to embrace the metatheatrical self-awareness of playing townsfolk in a community hall putting on a play in a community hall, Alex spent every night absolutely focused, in incredible vocal and physical condition, balancing the emotional and psychological needs of the role alongside the practical and technical demands (when veteran and legendary broadcaster Kim Hill had me on Radio New Zealand to talk about the show, the thing that astonished her, she told me, was—in the middle of a sequence in which he had rattled off an epic speech, climbed over battlements and then executed a complex and dangerous fight sequence—being able to look down the far end of the hall and see him quietly and calmly pouring a bucket of fake blood over his head, shoulders and chest, meticulously avoiding getting any blood on the hall's floor or furniture, before striding back into the space for the next scene). I don't think we'd assigned any other roles at the first readthrough, where a bunch of us gathered upstairs at BATS Theatre in the what had until very recently been the Grand Hall of the Royal Order of Antediluvian Buffaloes. Of the current Bacchanals, Kirsty would Coriolanus (c) The Bacchanals play Caius Martius' wife Virgilia, Jean would play his mother Volumnia, Salesi would play the politician Menenius, Joe would play Tullus Aufidius, Dasha was Valeria, Jamie would be Titus Lartius, and Brianne and I would play Sicinius and Brutus. As Cominius, Michael Ness hadn't been in a Bacchanals show since Othello back in 2000 and re-joined us for the remainder of the twenty-teens. Bronwyn Cheyne, who'd been my assistant director on a Young & Hungry play at BATS in 2012, came on board as designer for this show and for The Clouds. Morgan—professionally Paul—Rothwell told me he hated both reading and watching Shakespeare but wondered if being in a Shakespeare might change his perspective on things, so joined the ensemble. As with Not Taste Forever! a couple of years earlier, I put the word out to my current students that anyone who wanted to spend the summer being an expressionist chorus was welcome to come and join us and we had several takers. But times had really changed calibre-wise at Victoria University since the days when I'd recruit the likes of Erin Banks or Hadleigh Walker from within my second-year classes and be assured I'd chosen capable and hardworking actors—whereas Erin and Hadleigh could easily work at the same pitch as the likes of Alex and Julia without looking like their lessers in age or experience, none of "the children" (as Jean and Salesi would call them) in Coriolanus seemed to have any desire to learn from the professionalism and rigour of more experienced actors. So long as they were outperforming at least one of their classmates, they were content. And that's okay, because it probably doesn't matter if a couple of people in your long procession of slow-motion Roman senators all wearing masks aren't the finest actors in the world, but it did cause some frustration and friction within the company to have people who didn't seem to be putting in any effort to remembering what had been rehearsed or treating the process like a learning opportunity. If I have one disappointment in how Coriolanus turned out, it's that by the end of the season there was a real division between the 'core' Bacchanals and the 'ensemble'—we didn't feel like a unified company all working together; it felt like, as with Shakespeare's own company, there were shareholders who were creatively and emotionally invested in the work, and there were 'hirelings' who were just there to fill costumes and flesh out scenes. And several of them were smart and able enough to have been able to make a real contribution to the show if their attitudes had been different (certainly there was frostiness from some of them when they weren't invited back for The Clouds or Gunplay).

Coriolanus (c) The Bacchanals Rehearsals over November and December were far more experimental than the usual Bacchanals process. I wanted a style that was heightened and abstract, building on the lessons of No Taste Forever!, Slouching Toward Bethlehem and Other People's Wars. There are some very interesting textual cruxes in the Folio text of Coriolanus and, whereas with plays like King Lear, Hamlet and Othello I'd already decided which side of the scholarly arguments I was on, we approached parts of Coriolanus in the same vein as we had 1 Henry VI in 2009, which was to dedicate rehearsal time to trying all the possible scenarios to determine which was the best answer to, for example, whether Caius Martius says "O me alone! Make you a sword of me?" inwardly before having to attack the Volsces on his own, or the whole Roman army implores "O me alone! Make you a sword of me!" as they all clamber to be chosen by Caius Martius to fight the Volsces. We tried to find visual ways of expressing verbal conflicts too, creating a series of mié, the exaggerated emotional 'pose' adopted by Japanese actors in kabuki theatre, so that the crowd of citizens facing Menenius and then Caius Martius in the first scene had other ways of clarifying storytelling moments. We worked on slow motion and stylised sequences, such as the battle scenes in Act One and the sequence in Act Two when Caius Martius' deeds are discussed in front of the senate. We experimented with masks and with different rules about levels within our staging. I think this was the first Bacchanals show to use the phrase 'sharknado' to describe a crowd physically encircling a central point, and as I write this 'sharknado' has long-since become common parlance amongst Pop-up Globe actors also. And, because I'd always appreciated Laurie Atkinson saying that "daring and sometimes gauche staging touches" were a regular feature of Bacchanals productions when he reviewed King Lear, I didn't shy away from a couple of ideas that may have seemed otherwise ridiculous—when Brutus and Sicinius completely manipulate the citizens into denouncing Caius Martius after having just manipulated them into supporting Caius Martius, Brianne and I tossed a steak back and forth across the stage to each other as the citizens ran up and down the pitch like starving dogs; when the action moves from Rome to Antium in Act IV, the Volscians sat around a campfire and Joe and I replicated the 'Duelling Banjos' sequence from Deliverance, him on the guitar and me on the banjo.

Easily our boldest touch was the fake-out ending. In early explorations of the Long Hall and the spaces around and outside of it, we contemplated whether we might perform the first act—Caius Martius versus the citizens, and then the siege of Corioles—outside the hall, only shifting the audience inside once we got to Act II. Explored more seriously was the idea that the murder of Caius Martius at the end of the play might happen outside, in the dark, on the pathway leading from the Long Hall back up to the carpark by St Barnabus' church. It was logistically impractical, and probably would have been dangerously unsafe given the steepness of the path and visibility problems that late at night. But the idea of a fake-out ending stuck: because the play was such an unfamiliar one, we could get away with a staging that pretended the end of Act V scene v was the end of the play and that, once convinced by his mother to stop his army's advance, Caius Martius unified the Romans and the Volscians—as the company shouted "Welcome ladies, welcome!" Caius Martius, his mother, his wife and children were all brought centre-stage and venerated by the cheering crowd, and then there was a sudden freeze and jump-cut to the scowling Aufidius and his conspirators deciding to kill the man they had now lost all faith in. We even ended the plot synopsis in the programme early so that the murder in the final scene might remain a surprise for those new to the play.

Whereas once upon a time I'd been labelled a textual purist, Coriolanus was one of the four times in Bacchanals history that we delivered an edited text (aside from Othello in 2000, our church hall Hamlet in 2006, and our subsequent Richard III at BATS in 2015, all of our Shakespeare productions featured an uncut text). There was one area, however, where my pedantry sparked debate and commentary, and that was around the pronunciation of the play's name and title character. After his victory at Corioles in Act One, Caius Martius is afforded the new surname Coriolanus, and common usage says it is pronounced with the stress on the fourth syllable, i.e. ko-ree-oh-LAY-niss. But metrically, more moments of the play call for it to be pronounced with the stress on the third syllable than the fourth, i.e. ko-ree-OH-la-niss. And some people, such as the director Sir Peter Hall and the actor Sir Ian McKellen, advocate that, based on the pronunciation of the town whose name he adopts, it ought to be stressed on the second syllable, i.e ko-RYE-oh-la-niss. For me, the metrical irregularity is only a few steps on from names like Romeo, Juliet, Hermia, Sylvia, Proteus fluctuating between a bi-syllabic and a tri-syllabic pronunciation depending on where they fall in a line of verse, or Sebastian, Claudio, Antonio etc. fluctuating between having three or four syllables. So in the case of ko-ree-oh-la-niss we used all three pronunciations, favouring metrical accuracy over consistency.

I'm sure the production felt like chaos and hard slog through rehearsals. We spent hours and hours working on some sequences, only to find that when we came back to them no one could remember or retain what we'd done last time (Jamie became excellent at notating chorus movement) or that an idea I'd liked last week ago looked like rubbish when we revisited it next week, but being able to finally assemble huge chunks of the play in the run-up to opening night showed that a lot of it was really promising. I remember a lot of people having a "Oh, now we get it!" moment of epiphany when the mié we'd created to embody the citizens' begging for grain in Act One finally paid off when it was recycled as a gesture of supplication by Caius Martius' children, and then the whole cast, in the crucial turning point moment in Act Five. In Julius Caesar I had too much of a workload as an actor to worry too much what the overall show looked like in some parts, but in Coriolanus I sat out the complex choreography of the crowd scenes, only participating in moments that required Junius Brutus as a character, and I remember having my own epiphany during the dress rehearsal when, other than as a musician playing percussion, I was able to watch the siege of Corioles from out front and realise wow, I think this is the best work I've ever done. Corioalanus was the perfect culmination of all the lessons from Slouching Toward Bethlehem and Other People's Wars about what my ideal kind of theatre was. Slouching Toward Bethlehem had achieved the right kind of theatrical style and ramshackle aesthetic for me, and Other People's Wars had cracked the metatheatrical conjure-the-play-from-nothing form of presentation. But Coriolanus had two crucial advantages: one, it was Shakespeare—it was inherently a better play than Other People's Wars and the abstract style suited the text rather than being us grasping for anything that might make the show more dynamic and interesting; two, it was in the Long Hall—it was much easier to capture the rustic community centre slash church hall aesthetic I was into actually being in a rustic community centre slash church hall. We would get there once more with Once We Built A Tower a year later which again combined the political and the metatheatrical in a form I found so, so satisfying, but with Coriolanus I felt we had cracked something really special and had made a production that was of the professional, political and intellectual standard I aspired to, but without sacrificing any of the deliberate shabbiness that was so important to The Bacchanals for me—I always worried that without that vibe that John Smythe had called "deceptively ramshackle" when reviewing The Frogs in 2000, our work could easily descend into appearing either pretentious or—just as bad—earnest.

Coriolanus (c) The Bacchanals Oh, this was also one of my favourite Bacchanals posters. We hung a big white tablecloth, used at the fake wedding for Frank and Alice Ford that had opened my Summer Shakespeare production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, on my washing line and I photographed Alex drenched in blood against the all-white backdrop, intending to comp a different background in as I had on some of my other montage-style posters. But the photos that emerged were so compelling that I didn't do any work on them and used them as they were.

January 2013 was such a beautiful month—unseasonably warm and windless for Wellington. I loved being at the Long Hall; I loved having a theatre space so close to my house. I loved hanging previously-bloodied costumes on the line every morning at 2am after they'd been through the wash and reflecting on the simple joy of getting the spend each evening performing a show I was so proud of. I loved the consistently full houses, the consistently great performances, and all those nights sat out on the grass or in the cool of the hall after each performance. I loved busking Mountain Goats songs with Jean as part of the pre-show stuff in the space as the audience arrived—we chose 'Heretic Pride' as the most Coriolanus-appropriate song and then added 'Up The Wolves' as the season went on. Former Bacchanal James Stewart was in New Zealand with his husband Will that Christmas and it was great to see them see the tail end of a rehearsal in my living room while they were staying with us. We had a great meal out after the penultimate show in which I explained the ideas I had for a show about the gun control crisis in America. Most of all, I loved the feeling of knowing that we'd created a unique and special show that couldn't have been made anywhere else or by anyone else, and that like Othello in 2000 there was a sort-of niche feeling that this was a show you had to put some effort into finding—the opposite, I know, of Hamlet in 2006 or Julius Caesar in 2011 where the geographic agenda was to make the show as accessible as possible. While it wasn't a surprise that a lot of Wellingtonians hadn't been to the Long Hall before, what was amazing was how many people didn't know Point Jerningham even existed and it was great to see how many audience members arrived in the performance space already exhilarated from discovering that the most amazing view in the city is also one of its best-kept secrets. Even if the style and vibe of the show wasn't to everyone's tastes, there was enough about the location to have made your visit worthwhile.

It's easy for me to look back and say 2013 was the best year The Bacchanals ever had—we started out making my favourite Bacchanals production of the lot; in April we'd be doing what I called our 'thirteenth birthday production' of The Clouds, a show I knew was a more self-indulgent vanity piece than anything we'd made thus far but that we all really loved; in August we would unexpectedly get Gunplay onstage, the show that I am every year petitioned by some Bacchanals to revive. And at the 2013 Chapman Tripps, Joe would win the Most Promising Newcomer of the Year award for his performance as Tullus Aufidius, and that year's Critics' Wildcard award went to The Bacchanals as a company. The full wording of the award was about something to do with innovation and ingenuity on a shoestring budget but my real sense of it was they knew we'd made some fucking great work that year but that there'd be industry outrage if a group so firmly anti-establishment as us and productions as deliberately shabby and confronting as Coriolanus, The Clouds or Gunplay were to win, say, Production of the Year with their rejection of everything that the industry and community considered to be 'professional'. That night I deliberately wore a shirt that quoted a character from The Simpsons saying "Ribbons and trophies are no comfort on your deathbed!" That said, I still to this day think it an outrage that Alex wasn't even so much as nominated for his work on this show. But considering by 2010 I'd thought The Bacchanals were long-dead, to have in the space of five shows suddenly got the company to a level where I felt we were beyond the heights of even 2005 was a terrific feeling. In conclusion: Favourite Show Ever!—David, October 2020.

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