Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Tyrone Guthrie
Ian McKellen in the role of Tullus Aufidius
Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham
12 December 1963 - 1 January 1964
Words from Ian McKellen
We rehearsed initially in the City of London, close to St. PaulÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cathedral, where I met the cast for the first time. It was impressive that there were famous actors in the company - Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey), June Ritchie (A Kind of Loving), Dorothy Reynolds (lyricist of Salad Days} as well as John Neville (Richard BurtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s acting rival at the Old Vic) and my colleague from Ipswich, John Cairncross, who had recommended me to Neville.
Tyrone Guthrie was the biggest star of all Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the leading director of Shakespeare worldwide, who had initiated the theatres in Stratford Ontario and Minneapolis. He had a bad cold throughout the rehearsals, wrapt in a long woollen scarf and heavy overcoat, healing potions ministered by his wife. He began by putting us in a circle of hard chairs and reading out the introduction to an American edition of Coriolanus Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ã¢â‚¬Å“I agree with everything this saysÃ¢â‚¬Â. The short essay surmised that the play centred on the love/hate relationship between Caius Martius and his enemy on the battlefield Tullus Aufidius. When heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d finished he asked Ã¢â‚¬Å“Where is our Tullus?Ã¢â‚¬Â. John Neville looked straight at me Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I had been cast as First Citizen ( a good part which opened act one scene one and most recently played by Albert Finney in the Olivier Coriolanus at Stratford-upon-Avon). There was a moment of bafflement until it was explained that I was Tullus Aufidius Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the ryhthmic similarity with Ã¢â‚¬Å“First CitizenÃ¢â‚¬Â had been mis-interpreted by my agent over the phone.
Next day I picked up the book from which Guthrie had read the essay Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ã¢â‚¬Å“ A new printing of Coriolanus with short introduction by Sir Tyrone GuthrieÃ¢â‚¬Â. Recognising my nervousness and inexperience, he suggested that he and I should rehearse AufidiusÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s solo speeches in private session: Ã¢â‚¬Å“then when weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got them right, we can surprise the rest of the castÃ¢â‚¬Â. Typical of his treating each actor according to his needs. He particularly favoured young actors and was mockingly disrespectful of the older ones Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ã¢â‚¬Å“Stop it Leo McKern, I can see what you are doing, trying to upstage everyone!Ã¢â‚¬Â