by William Shakespeare.
The Roundhouse Chalk Farm Road NW1 8EH In rep to 4 February 2011.
7.15pm 28, 31 Jan, 2, 4 Feb.
Mat 1.15pm 29 Jan, 3 Feb.
Audio-described/Captioned 29 Jan.
Runs 3hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 8008.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 January.
The RSC in London saves the best till last.
I’ve no say in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s succession planning – but the two outstanding productions of this Roundhouse season have come from director David Farr, who brings clarity while digging perceptively into the core of a play.
He has a powerful aide in both The Winter’s Tale and King Lear, but Farr’s dramatic acuteness and thrilling theatrical expressiveness run right through this long (but never long-seeming) evening. The opening could hardly be further from the RSC’s previous, Trevor Nunn/Ian KcKellen Lear, with its grand regal entry. Here, the setting’s a decayed warehouse – Lear’s country going the way of modern English manufacturing? – with broken windows, dodgy electrics and a few boxes all that’s left to show from the past.
Instead of the fanfares and magnificence accompanying McKellen’s arrival, Greg Hicks’ Lear comes on barely noticed from an unexpected quarter. He may find this trick amusing, but as the row of seated lords with their dutiful laughs show, this is a stagnant place, its ruler the humourless kind who will try to be funny.
It’s just such a person who expects things to run to plan, who responds when Cordelia refuses to play along in public by moving swiftly from prompting (a near-whispered warning about “nothing”) to rage. When he faces the true rejection of his elder daughters – Kelly Hunter’s grey-clad, openly harsh “fierce sister” Goneril and Katy Stephens’ wine-red, lipsticked Regan, tactile and smiling till confronted – Lear’s decline into madness and sanity seems entirely natural.
For, while Hunter, Stephens and Samantha Young as a purposeful, principled Cordelia, are excellent in a cast every one of whom works at their best, it’s Hicks’ Lear that, aptly, crowns the production. Gone is the rat-a-tat delivery that, till recently, could mar even his best work. What’s remarkable is the quiet concentration – even amid the storm, where the stage is utterly bare – and the way Lear’s famous phrases slip through, sometimes almost cast aside, yet always registering in the king’s speech as part of his journey.
Clear, gripping and perceptively detailed, Hicks and Farr triumph – and so does Shakespeare in the production of its age.
King Lear: Greg Hicks.
Goneril: Kelly Hunter.
Regan: Katy Stephens.
Cordelia: Samantha Young.
Duke of Albany: John Mackay.
Duke of Cornwall: Clarence Smith.
King of France: Brian Doherty.
Duke of Burgundy/Herald: Ansu Kabia.
Earl of Kent: Darrell D’Silva.
Earl of Gloucester: Geoffrey Freshwater.
Edgar: Charles Aitken.
Edmund: Tunji Kasim.
Old Man/Knight: Larrington Walker.
Curan/Doctor/Knight: Phillip Edgerley.
Fool: Sophie Russell.
Oswald: James Tucker.
Lear’s Gentleman: James Gale.
Messenger/Captain/Knight: Adam Burton.
Cornwall’s Man/Paul Hamilton.: Paul Hamilton.
Knights: Sandy Neilson, Christopher Saul, Roger Watkins.
Nurse: Hannah Young.
Director: David Farr.
Designer: Jon Bausor.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Music: Keith Clouston.
Music Director: John Woolf.
Text/Voice work: Lyn Darnley, Stephen Kemble.
Movement: Ann Yee.
Additional Movement: Struan Leslie.
Fights: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Vik Sivalingam.