by William Shakespeare.
Theatre Royal Sawclose BA1 1ET To 10 August 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 3hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 01225 448844.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 July.
Brilliantly highlights aspects of King Lear.
It’s less a king of England than crime boss of an East End manor director Lucy Bailey presents. It’s a seductive idea, spotlighting some aspects of the play, while leaving others incongruous.
The 1960s setting, familiar from memory or screen recreations, gives a clearly-grasped context. At first, as Lear holds court in a private room at a pub where he’s clearly a big geezer, all seems realistic.
But it isn’t. Early scenes like this are flimsy, background figures turn out two-dimensional projections. And settings grow increasingly desolate, from the cheery pub to an impersonal club, then that familiar on-screen crime scene, an empty underground car-park.
It culminates in a stage stripped to its walls, as the dispossessed characters are reduced to near-nakedness and human violence threatens everyone.
Gloucester’s castle becomes a tower pent-house decked-out in high fashion furnishings reflecting Edmund’s generation and leaving Paul Shelley’s Gloucester out-of-place in his own home. This is the decade when youth took control and the previous generation learned to live around it. It illumines the instability at the core of Lear.
The gang who surprise Gloucester as he returns, handcuffing him to his chair, tearing-out his eyes with orgiastic fury, make the Servant’s protest seem alien. Yet Edmund’s final stated intention to do good is, for once, convincing; after so much violence in this familiar world, the weariness of evil takes over from its banality.
Shelley’s performance catches a vital moral surprise. It’s also one of the two least adapted to the gangster world; the other being David Haig’s Lear. If he belonged to it, he’s out-matured the estuary, em-braced and lean, mean-looking gang world. Yet he’s short-fused, used to getting his way through anger, a temper that sends him through fury into madness.
The Fool fits uneasily, but Lear’s daughters are well suited to elegance and power-lust inherited from the old man. They communicate by flickers of expression and can hardly believe their triumph as they encourage each other to wrest Lear from his supporters, while Fiona Button gives Cordelia her own decisiveness, making a definite plan out of “Love – and be silent”.
Lear: David Haig.
Goneril: Aislin McGuckin.
Regan: Fiona Glascott.
Cordelia: Fiona Button.
Duke of Albany: Daniel Weyman.
Duke of Cornwall: Sam Oatley.
King of France: George Beach.
Duke of Burgundy: Chris Fulton.
Earl of Kent: David Ganly.
Earl of Gloucester: Paul Shelley.
Edgar: William Postlethwaite.
Edmund: Samuel Edward-Cook.
Old Man/Doctor: Alister Cameron.
Fool: Simon Gregor.
Oswald: Simon Darwen.
Curan: Peter Henderson.
Servant of Cornwall: Alexander James Simon.
Herald: John Canmore.
Director: Lucy Bailey.
Designer: William Dudley.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound/Composer: Tom Mills.
Movement: Caroline Pope.
Fight director: Philip d’Orléans.
Assistant director: Zoë Waterman.