by William Shakespeare.
Cockpit Theatre Gateforth Street Marylebone NW8 8EH To 29 March 2014.
Tue-Say 7.15pm Mat Sat 2.15pm
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7258 2925.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 March.
Staging and central performance are the strong points of this Lear.
This is both an ordinary and extraordinary production. Acting can be rough, while even the more experienced performers are allowed, or encouraged, by director Lewis Reynolds towards emphases or gestures which illustrate the line rather than become integral to its expression.
Some performances are clear enough in meaning but force matters rather than letting sense arise through the verse. The result is an over-excited temper distorting the detailed ebb-and-flow of the dialogue.
The physical staging is more successful. Designer Alexander McPherson provides a stone surface for the in-the-round space. Dark and bare, with a kind of disjointed tent looming high above, it’s as if exile and battle hover over the land. Such a cold, hard Britain is the mood set by Peter Brook’s 1960s Royal Shakespeare production, all barbarity, with none of the rich landscape Lear describes as he divides the realm between his daughters.
Cold, hard barbarity is what Lear experiences as he leaves cruel society for winter and rough weather and descends towards the madness underlying his lack of self-knowledge. Varying intensities in Davy Cunningham’s lighting create the bright life indoors and the dark louring on the heath, as the spacious castle and huddled hovel are also sensed through minimal furnishings.
But David Ryall’s Lear is the production’s centre-piece and purpose. Ever since seeing Ryall’s God create the world simply by rolling gently on his back in Katie Mitchell’s small-scale Mysteries at Stratford-upon-Avon it’s been clear he’s a remarkable actor, concentrating energy in his presence and expressive in his rich, deep voice. His Lear is well worth seeing.
There are patches of it here – in the final scene, which powerfully focuses grief, self-awareness and resignation. And in the surprise, at the start, at Cordelia’s “Nothing” as he sits, a suddenly affronted manager in spectacles at his desk.
But medical treatment during rehearsals had the side-effect of affecting the memory and, disguise it courageously as this experienced professional does, the diffusion of energy into memory or consulting the script take its toll. I wish him a full recovery and us the chance to see this Lear at full throttle.
Earl of Kent: Dan MacLane.
Earl of Gloucester: Stephen Christos.
Edmund: Michael Luke Walsh.
King Lear: David Ryall.
Goneril: Wendy Morgan.
Regan: Nikki Leigh Scott.
Cordelia: Charlie Ryall.
Duke of Albany: Alex Vendittelli.
Duke of Cornwall: Ian Hallard.
Duke of Burgundy/Knight/Servant: Sanee Patel.
King of France/Knight/Servant: Karl Williams.
Edgar: Dominic Kelly.
Oswald: Anna Hawkes.
Fool: Ryan Wichert.
Gentleman: Adam Drew.
Doctor: Imogen Ryall.
Director: Lewis Reynolds.
Designer: Alexander McPherson/
Lighting: Davy Cunningham.
Sound: Philip Matejtschuk, John Leonard.
Text coach: Liza Graham.
Fight director: Lawrence Carmichael.
Assistant director: Guido Martin-Brandis.