KING LEAR by William Shakespeare.
Abbey Theatre, 26 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1. To 23 March.
7.30 pm. Saturday Matinee 2 pm.
Runs 3hrs 30 mins, one interval.
Tickets: 00 3531 8787 222 www.abbeytheatre.ie
Review: Michael Paye 19 February 2013.
A promising beginning.Upon entering the auditorium, we are greeted with the Fool sitting at the edge of the protruding area of centre stage. He dangles his legs over the edge, absentmindedly putting on makeup and muttering. In the stage background, a magnificent Irish wolfhound trots from wing to wing. Along with an imposing two-story stage hemmed in on either side by a rock face, an air of expectation is bred.
Yet the Abbey Theatre’s KING LEAR starts surprisingly slowly. Although Liz Roche’s opening movement sequence should help build that air of intensity already suggested by the stage setting, some of the actors fail to impress as several seem rather lacklustre in their movement efforts.
Furthermore, although Tina Kellegher, playing Goneril, eventually finds a suitably vituperative tone and domineering air, her early dialogue is delivered in a formulaic and prosaic style, particularly in comparison to Caoilfhionn Dunne’s powerful and viper-like performance as Regan. Sean Campion’s early scenes as Kent have a slightly Hollywood-like air as he confides to the audience, but thankfully this style is interrupted by his change into Caius.
Owen Roe’s Lear evokes the pathos of a king turned to madness yet allows sympathy with his plight. Physically imposing, he alternates excellently between a pathetically comic figure and a man tragically aware of his descent. Hugh O’Connor’s gives a superb performance as the Fool, delivering his lines with bravado, foreboding and insult when appropriate, and his costuming and pale makeup give him a sombre vulnerability made tragic by his violent end. Indeed, this mixture of humour and pathos is essential to any performance of KING LEAR, and director Selina Cartmell strikes this balance perfectly, with the simultaneous comedy and tragedy of Lear’s ridiculousness coming across throughout the performance.
In the program notes, Patrick Lonergan mentions that the Abbey theatre’s productions of Shakespeare have been “refreshingly daring” in the past. Though this is not the case here, Conor Lineham’s beautiful music, Gaby Rooney’s excellent costumes and Chahine Yavroyan’s sensitive lighting design help to ensure that overall this is an engaging performance, a promising beginning to the Abbey’s Shakespeare season.
Owen Roe: King Lear
Hugh O’Conor: Fool
Caoilfhionn Dunne: Regan
Tina Kellegher: Goneril
John Kavanagh: Duke of Albany
Phelim Drew: Duke of Cornwall
Beth Cooke: Cordelia
Lorcan Cranitch: Earl of Gloucester
Aaron Monaghan: Edgar
Ciarán McMenamin: Edmund
Sean Campion: Earl of Kent
Dylan Tighe: Oswald
Andrew Macklin: Duke of Burgundy, Ensemble
Serge Bolze: King of France, Ensemble
Ronan Leahy: Curan, Doctor, Ensemble
Aidan Crowe: Ensemble
Robert Fawsitt: Ensemble
Manus Halligan: Ensemble
John Merriman: Ensemble
Danny O’Connor: Ensemble
Lauterio Zamparelli: Ensemble
Director: Selina Cartmell
Set Design: Garance Marneur
Costume Design: Gaby Rooney
Lighting Design: Chahine Yavroyan
Composer: Conor Linehan
Sound Design: Carl Kennedy
Choreography: Liz Roche
Assistant Choreographer: Philip Connaughton
Fight Director: Donal O’Farrell