Coriolanus Vanishes (4 stars)

Scottish maverick reveals an ugly side

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Coriolanus Vanishes

credit: Tommy Ga-ken Wan

Drawing on Shakespeare's Roman general, a study of Stalinist revision and a strong sense of justice, David Leddy's Coriolanus Vanishes is a spectacular monologue that matches Leddy's dynamic stagecraft and a psychological journey into the neuroses that blight personal lives and public agenda. Alone on the stage, Leddy – in his first performance in over a decade – places his impressive performance at the service of a script that is unafraid to condemn political hypocrisy while retaining a compassionate dissection of how a monster is constructed through destructive relationships.

Since founding Fire Exit in 2002, Leddy has consistently demonstrated an outstanding ability to combine stunning scenography with incisive writing: this time, Britain's friendship with Saudi Arabia is the focus of his moral indignation and precise use of lighting and soundscape heightens the tension as his protagonist, Chris, heads towards a final reckoning with his conscience. Variously pacing around the stage or framing himself within the austere set, Leddy captures the mood swings and self-justifications of a successful dealer who systematically destroys those closest to him.

While Leddy's performance does not betray any rustiness despite his long absence, its effectiveness lies in the generous way he places it at the service of the monologue. A series of startling images – Leddy in silhouette, addressing the audience from behind a heavy desk or trying to sleep beneath an incongruous Spider-Man duvet – enhance the intensity of the script's descent into horror. Questions of moral responsibility, and the impact of dysfunctional parenting, are presented and unresolved, building a character study that connects the personal to the political.

Coriolanus Vanishes is a reminder of theatre's power to both move and set out an intelligent argument: without ever excusing the arms trading, emotionally selfish and disturbed Chris, it allows him to present his excuses and traces his dysfunctions back to his childhood. Sometimes he is sympathetic, sometimes repulsive: even Chris himself can't decide whether he hates or accepts himself. Leddy's visual sensibility – realised by Becky Minto and lighting designer Nich Smith – matches the distressed poetry of the script to provide a study in personal desperation, economic dishonesty and theatrical finesse.

Tron, Glasgow, 18–22 April.

Coriolanus Vanishes

Contemporary psychological tragedy written and performed by David Leddy, exploring how shadowy childhood memories can besiege our adult relationships.

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