This collection item from the Tynan Archive is a photocopied play script of A Place Calling Itself Rome, a reworking of Coriolanus by the playwright John Osborne (1929–1994).
Osborne, most famous for his ground-breaking work Look Back in Anger (1956), was one of a group of writers in the 1950s known as the ‘angry young men’: a loosely defined group of critical, predominantly working-class and left-wing writers, who were disillusioned with traditional British society. Osborne used anger, contempt and brutal honesty in his writing to rail against the establishment.
Although Osborne keeps the Roman setting, his adaptation takes on the context of contemporary Britain and the labour disputes and strikes that took place in the early 1970s. His suggestions for the staging of the ‘mob’ for example are to include students, trade unionists and camera crews. Coriolanus is himself depicted as an angry young man with aggressive and reactionary opinions. Osborne also draws out some of the potential sexual subtexts in the relationships between Coriolanus and Aufidius, and between Coriolanus and Volumnia.
Osborne wrote this adaptation for the National Theatre, but as he couldn’t find a producer willing to take it on, the play wasn’t staged. The script was published in 1973.
This extract shows Osborne’s first two scenes. Act 1, Scene 1 is a completely new scene showing Coriolanus in bed with Virgilia, awaking from a nightmare about Corioli and Aufidius. He gets up and records his disjointed and racing thoughts in a notebook before returning to bed. Act 1, Scene 2 is Osborne’s rendering of Shakespeare’s opening crowd scene.