KING LEAR, 4****, London

by William Shakespeare.
4Stars ****

Shakespeare’s Globe. 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT to 14 October 2017.
Mon-Sat 7pm. Mat Tue, Thu & Sat 2pm/
Runs 3hr 5 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: William Russell 16 August.

A blackly comic tragedy
Comedy overwhelms the tragedy in this staging by Nancy Meckler. It is the funniest King Lear I have ever seen – and the jokes are there in the script. That said the tragic tale of a family torn apart works perfectly well and at the centre there is a powerful performance as Lear from Kevin R McNally although he seems fairly robust right up to the end. Meckler sees some sort of parallel between the vagabonds and beggars who infested Tudor England and the homeless of today so the play opens with the glories of the stage wrapped up in paper and the back wall blocked up. Enter some squatters who start to force an entry and then for some reason to perform the play. It is a concept she seems to abandon straight away and the comedy apart – Edmund, for instance, is played for laughs as a two faced seducer – things go much as one expects. There is a lot of effective drumming to create atmosphere, some clever use of lighting, and almost everyone speaks with the necessary clarity.

The one innovation is to make Kent a woman, although once she has quit the court she dresses as a man to accompany Lear on his wanderings. Saskia Reeves is splendid in the part, small, feisty and tough. Goneril (Emily Bruni) seethes with frustrated passion, although she quacks her lines at times, Regan (Sirine Saba) is traditionally the sexy sibling, while Ralph Davis (Edmund) is a suitable object of their lust. McNally strides through it all, delivers the great speeches as required, gets away with “Howl” – always tricky – and the result is a performance which holds the centre of the drama as it should. The three hours also fly by, not always the case with this play.

But Meckler also sees love as a central theme but the production does not manage to get this across. One is possibly too busy laughing at the jokes. She does, however, get away with a production performed in a mix of modern dress, prop wooden swords, and medieval bits and pieces, makes the blinding of Gloucester horrifying – it can be risible in the wrong hands – and with a lot of colour blind casting. Decent performances all round make the evening very worth while, but there is more to the play than we get here. When the last of the wrappings is finally stripped away and the glories of the stage exposed it ends with a most satisfactory theatrical flourish.

As I left two members of the audience said they had never seen it before and now they had that would do – they knew what it was about. No need to see it again. Wrong.

Goneril: Emily Bruni.
Gloucester: Burt Caesar.
Edmund: Ralph Davis.
Edgar: Joshua James.
Lear: Kevin R McNally.
Oswald/Burgundy: Chris Nayak.
Fool: Loren O’Dair.
Albany: Thomas Padden.
Kent: Saskia Reeves.
Regan: Sirine Saba.
Cornwall: Faz Singhateh.
France: Buom Tihngang.
Cordelia: Anjana Vasan.
Ensemble/Musician: Louisa Beadel.
Ensemble: Kenton Thomas.

Director: Nancy Meckler.
Dramnaturgy: Patrick Sandford.
Designer: Rosanna Vize.
Composer: Simon Slater.
Movement Director: Shona Morris.
Lighting Designer: Anna Watson.
Sound Designer: Matt McKenzie.
Fight Director: Philip d’Orleans.
Voice Coach: Janis Price.
Costume Supervisor: Laura Rushton.
Dialect: Jonathan Dawes.

2017-08-18 10:06:51

ReviewsGate Copyright Protection