by William Shakespeare.
West Yorkshire Playhouse (Quarry Theatre) Quarry Hill LS2 7UP To 22 October 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.15pm Mat Thu & Sat 1.30pm.
Audio-described 12 Oct, 15 Oct 1.30pm.
BSL Signed 8 Oct 1.30pm.
Captioned 13 Oct 7.15pm.
Runs 3hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0113 213 7700.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 September.
A splendid coming together of theatre space, director, actor and cast overall.
King Lear performed in a Quarry: not a site-specific production here, but the larger of the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s two auditoria might have been made for Ian Brown’s production. The spacious stage is occupied by a kind of crooked cube in the first half. Walls and floors awry, its exterior wall has a ladder Tim Piggott-Smith’s angry, sorrowful and sympathetic Lear mounts to make his cry from the heath. Later, the small royal party crawl under a gap in its wall to reach their hovel-shelter.
After the interval the space is cleared, with nowhere, crooked or straight, to accommodate man or woman. Only a huge silver-disc moon stays hanging in the sky (it becomes rather too obviously blood-red in the play’s dying moments). A flat floor backed by a gentle slope provides a neutral, unhelpful world for blinding, maddening, warring people.
It’s a long way from the tentative attempts to impose order on the world at the start, with a long red carpet reaching to Lear’s judgment throne, a sword stuck vertically into the carpet as a place for each daughter to declare her heart belongs to daddy.
Goneril, determined, Regan manipulative of mouth, whether speaking or smiling, are well-played, without being surprising characterisations. But Olivia Morgan’s Cordelia, stood at the side, is determined from the start. There’s something of her father in the stubbornness, despite the trouble it will bring. And the words “I know you what you are” are delivered like separate stabs at the elder sisters’ pretensions.
So it’s no surprise to see her later in military garb; yet it’s here her humanity, the only genuine quality among the three sisters, expresses itself in action and not empty words. And, at a time when her ill-treated father is ready, and indeed needs, to receive it.
The impact of this, in such a bare world, is devastating and makes the play’s conclusion, resonant with lost possibility, truly tragic. Humanity has blindly brought itself here, and sees so too late, in death or with resignation. It’s a point often made in criticism but rarely so utterly expressed on stage.
King Lear: Tim Pigott-Smith.
Goneril: Neve McIntosh.
Regan: Hedydd Dylan.
Cordelia: Olivia Morgan.
Earl of Goulcester: Bernard Lloyd.
Edmund: James GArnon.
Edgar: Sam Crane.
Earl of Kent: Tim Frances.
Duke of Albany: Chris Garner.
Duke of Cornwall: Richard O’Callaghan.
Oswald: Iain Batchelor.
King of France: Lloyd Everitt.
Duke of Burgundy: Joe Forte.
Old Man/Knight/Doctor: Peter Cadden.
Supernumaries: Darren Hill, Oliver Andrew Knight, Paul Yardley/Chris Ingham, Gabriel Gerard Keogh, Stephen Ryan.
Director: Ian Brown.
Designer: Ruari Murchison.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound: Mic Pool.
Composer: Richard Taylor.
Movement: Joyc Henderson.
Voice coach: Bardy Thomas.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Sam Wood.