This thrilling monologue of personal and professional egoism is a psychologically disquieting and theatrically dazzling return to the stage for Fire Exit maestro David Leddy – a triumphant first solo show in over ten years.
Traversing a similar tangle of personal and political intrigue as the show’s Shakespearean namesake, Leddy is Chris: a soft-spoken, outwardly successful man trapped in a cell awaiting trial. For what, we don’t know yet, but from the off we sense he’s imprisoned as much by his psychology as his crimes. Expounding his life story to the audience from a dark podium, caught in stark flashes of light and bathed in blackness, Chris pieces together the twists and turns that have led to his imprisonment until his excuses finally run dry.
In the programme for Coriolanus Vanishes, Leddy remarks on the sheer amount of dialogue in his self-penned opus, and indeed the almost Beckettian density of the script means it takes a while for Leddy to find his rhythm and his character. But once he does, he has the audience in the palm of his hand, dragging us along in Chris’ destructive wake with wave after wave of lucid, lyrical prose.
Like Coriolanus, Chris is a man guilty of believing his own myth, and unlucky enough to live to see it thoroughly shattered. He is never likeable. At times he is despicable. But Leddy’s performance, and the structure and tone of his script ensure he is continually viewed through a lens of sympathy and uneasy complicity – even when his horrors are on show for all to see.
Equally imposing, the Tron’s stage is dominated by Becky Minto and Nich Smith’s brutally minimal lighting and set design. Chris’ solid, executive-style desk is perched on top of a giddily high podium, his world demarcated by the straight black lines of the stage tabs, which expand and contract to frame scenes from Chris’ memory like panels in a graphic novel. The stage is as malleable as Chris’ morals. This hugely effective manipulation ensures the stark set-up is constantly awash with symbolism – entrapment and freedom, light and dark – and the audience are invited to piece together their own meanings for Chris’ endlessly shifting vantage point, as well as enjoying some truly beautiful visual moments.
Lean, mean and theatrically audacious, it’s hard to fault this mesmerising yet noxious piece, and the most we can say is that it occasionally veers into self-indulgence. Leddy’s aim of exploring how Chris’ psychological issues play out in his personal life and his professional sphere promises a biting insight into the toddler-like behaviour of some of our latest crop of political leaders. However, the story is weighted so heavily towards exploring Chris’ personal life – all visceral sex, drugs and childhood abuses – that his final decision to whistleblow on his dodgy-dealing political bosses feels more like a temper-tantrum than a realistic outworking of his own warped psychology.
Nevertheless, Coriolanus Vanishes remains a fascinating piece of one-man, psychological drama; a thoughtful, brutal show from a master of his craft, powerfully realised by a top-notch production team.
Coriolanus Vanishes is at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until April 22nd. For more details, click here.