KING LEAR to 23 December, 5Star*****, Stratford U Avon, and London

Stratford Upon Avon & London
KING LEAR: William Shakespeare

RSC: Main House
Stratford Upon Avon to 15 October
London, Barbican to 23 December
Runs: 3h 20m, one interval
Tkts: 0844 800 1110


Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 7 September 2016

This is a completely splendid production.
To say a director has a style could mean that the director puts themselves in front of the play, that we see the play coloured by them. Not so with Gregory Doran; over the years he has developed a transparent style – he enables his company to interpret in every word and image, with a deep understanding, every aspect of a play.

And so it is with this one both in individual performances and in the whole. Most notably that never for a second can you spot an actor playing what is to come; the story unfolds second by thrilling second, being created freshly all the time. The play is clearly set in a pagan England, which enables full value to be given to the pleas to the gods and the curses that employ their power – Lear’s cursing of Goneril is terrifying both to us and the other characters. All, that is, except Goneril herself; she bears it stony-faced, clearly dismissing it as the ravings of an old man losing his marbles.

Antony Sher’s Lear is beautifully handled. In the opening scene we sense he (Lear) is acting at being old; he presents this image as he has presented himself as images all his life. His journey to finding himself is clear for us to witness. Sher manages the text with great skill, never hurried, taking his time when need be, hurrying when required. The results are sometimes surprising, but never out of key. His final moments with Cordelia are sparingly played, but all the more moving – here is the man. Quite extraordinarily, throughout, at the times he demonstrates most real kingship he also gives us most vulnerability.

Graham Turner’s Fool is remarkable. His long first appearance is masterful. We understand fully what he’s saying because he understands it, and communicates that to us. His later scene, in which he tries to cheer Lear up by telling unfunny jokes (which make them laugh) is heart-breaking. And his final moments – his Merlin prophesy – one of the eeriest moments of the evening.

David Troughton’s bloke-ish Gloucester is unusual, but fits perfectly with the opening. Later, Troughton shows great sensitivity and gentleness. Anton Byrne’s Kent may be a bluff no-nonsense courtier – one we can readily relate to – but he shows himself sensitive to the play as a whole.

Niki Turner’s designs are both full of surprises and unobtrusive. Much to be admired is the emblematic use of black and white. Fantastic storm sequence of operatic proportions (effects and brass score); something Lear can really rail at and with.

Hard to imagine a better whole KING LEAR than this Doran production.

Soldier: Romayne Andrew
Kent: Anton Byrne
Soldier: Eke Chukwu
Cornwall: James Clyde
Soldier: James Cooney
Lady: Bethan Cullinane
Lady: Marieme Diouf
Edmund: Paapa Essiedu
Lady: Jenny Fennessy
Curan: Kevin M Golding
France: Marcus Griffiths
Goneril: Mia Gwynne
Edgar: Oliver Johnstone
Oswald: Byron Mondahl
Burgundy: Theo Ogundipe
King Lear: Antony Sher
Cordelia: Natalie Simpson
Albany: Clarence Smith
Gloucester: David Troughton
Fool: Graham Turner
Old Man: Ewart James Walters
Regan: Kelly Williams

Director: Gregory Doran
Designer: Niki Turner
Lighting: Tim Mitchell
Music: Ilona Sekacz
Sound: Jonathan Ruddick
Movement: Michael Ashcroft
Fights: Bret Yount

2016-09-08 11:13:16

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