'O, me alone! make you a sword of me?’
Wallwork at the Royal Shakespear Company
Perhaps unusual to take the heading for this news item from Act I, Scene 6, of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. However, it fits perfectly with the request the Royal Shakespeare Company recently made of Wallwork Birmingham.
There is much more to the swords used in such productions, as we discovered when approached by the RSC’s Head of Costume Props, Footwear and Armoury, Alan Smith. The actors are trained to wield the swords with great skill, but the sheer ferociousness of the fight scenes require equipment which will withstand the constant clashing to which they are subjected daily.
“There would be little worse than a sword breaking mid-scene – apart from disrupting the play, flying metal would pose a real safety risk to actors and audience. This is why we make every effort to ensure the equipment is of the highest standard,” Alan explained.
Business development manager at Birmingham, Mark Fergusson, added, “This was an unusual request, but like all the work passing through, it was a routine application of the just the right amount of hardening and tempering to ensure the finished swords would retain the perfect balance of strength and flexibility so as not to be too brittle,”
Coriolanus was considered by T. S. Elliot to be Shakespeare’s finest tragedy. Set in ancient Rome it tracks the protagonist’s rise through military achievements and his undoing by political plotters. The current RSC production is running at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until October 14 and then at the Barbican in London from November 6. There is a live cinema broadcast on October 11. Head over to https://www.rsc.org.uk/Coriolanus/ for tickets and more information.