King Lear by William Shakespeare. The Brockley Jack Studio, London SE4. 3*** William Russell

by William Shakespeare.
The Brockey Jack Studio theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH to 30 March 2019.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0333 666 366
Review: William Russell 21 March.

Fathers, sons and daughters fall out
Lear is one of theatre’s great roles, the play one of its greatest challenges for directors and players alike and it was daring indeed of the Yard Player’s to take it on. They may not scale the heights but this production directed by James Eley is very inventive, holds the attention – most of the time – and has the advantage a wonderfully choleric Lear in Alan Booty. The opening scenes in particular go lickety split as Lear wilfully destroys his world by simply not listening to what his daughters are saying, hearing only what he wants to hear. It is an impressive performance, he delivers the lines with precision, and although he does not quite decline into the pitiable Lear of the closing scenes is always watchable.
It is fashionable at the moment to have women play roles written for men and Gloucester’s bastard son Edmund becomes Ada which does change quite a lot that is to come. There is no reason to object to Edmund’s change of sex but Ada is perhaps not the best of names to choose. It does mean that the lust between the bastard and those lethal, sex mad sisters Goneril and Regan turns into lesbian affairs which might once have been shocking but now is par for the course. Evangeline Beaven makes a thoroughly nasty plotter as Ada and Zara Banks (Goneril) and the flame haired Fleur de Wit (Regan) match her in odiousness. Among the pluses are the decision to make Regan and husband Cornwall swingers and Goneril a woman deeply fed up with her wimpish husband Albany; the amazingly vicious fight to the death between Edgar and bastard sister Ada – a tribute to the daring of the actors and the tuition of director Eley; and the blinding of Gloucester (Christopher Poke providing a mellifluous counterpoint to Lear both as a character and in his own sub plot) most stylishly and sickeningly staged with Regan gouging the second eye. Jessica Kinsey makes the most of Cordelia, who is almost as stupid as her father when it comes to saying what she means, and does an effective double as the Fool who runs around automaton like adjusting the actions of these hapless puppets.

The necessary doubling of roles causes a little confusion at times and the Gloucester sub plot occasionally drags – Lear vanishes midplay for quite a long time – and all the poor Tom stuff when Edgar saves his blind outcast father is wearisome. It is done in modern dress, the locations are scrawled up in chalk on the back wall of the stage – again an inventive touch with, as well as the Heath and Dover, some known pub names appearing – and there is an occasionally puzzling music track to back things up. The Yard Players – this apparently is a first appearance by the company – have come up with an attention holding, enjoyable and interesting interpretation of a play which, for all its greatness, can defeat actors and directors.

Lear: Alan Booty.
Gloucester/Messenger: Christopher Poke.
Cordelia/Fool: Jessica Kinsey.
Albany/Oswald: Benjamin May.
Edgar: Daniel McCaully.
Kent/Servant: Pete Picton.
Cornwall/Captain: David Sayers.
Ada: Evangeline Beaven.
Regan: Fleur de Wit.
Goneril: Zara Banks.

Director, designer, sound designer & fight director: James Eley.
Lighting Designer: Paul Lennox.
Assistant Director: Ocean Barrington-Cook.
Light Operator: Keira Spray.
Sound Operator: Eleanor Strutt.
Production Photographs: Yard Players

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