by William Shakespeare amended by Phil Willmott.
Union Theatre 204 Union Street SE10LX To 28 June 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 50min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 0207 261 9876.
Review: William Russell 6 June.
What if King Lear were a woman?
Director Phil Wilmott’s decision to stage King Lear with the role changed to Queen Lear works surprisingly well in this promenade production, despite changing the dynamics of the play considerably. It diminishes the tragedy, partly because the relationship between mother and daughters is not the same as between father and daughters.
The fact Lear is a queen is not a problem. England was familiar with such a monarch. But Elizabeth refused consistently to say who would inherit her throne. People could wait in the wings but they did not know if they would be called centre stage.
It is also questionable whether a mother would be as blind to her daughters’ natures as a father. However, Ursula Mohan as Queen Lear rises valiantly to the challenges of the role and gets strong support from her director and first-rate cast.
It is not her fault Queen Lear trundling a shopping trolley across the heath in the storm suggests an eccentric bag lady rather than monarch destroyed by pride heading into madness.
Wilmott’s decision to stage the play as a promenade works for two thirds of the evening, allowing him to use the entire floor space of the Union to great effect, although the audience, instead of standing as commanded, sat wherever it could.
In the last act he has installed a vast conference table on top of which much of the action takes place and round which people are asked to sit. Some actions are invisible to most of those seated at the table and those seated there are underneath the lights so they get blinded by the glare.
Mohan, very good in the early scenes as an outraged matriarch, is less so when rising to madness in the storm – vocally things are beyond her. Tenors don’t sing bass arias.
Rikki Lawton is a splendidly evil, sexy Edmund, Claire Jeater and Felicity Duncan impressive as Regan and Goneril, while Richard Derrington makes a fine,d noble Gloucester. Willmott’s production is well worth catching as, if nothing else, an antidote to the Russell Beale King Lear at the National.
Lear: Ursula Mohan.
Goneril: Claire Jeater.
Regan: Felicity Duncan..
Cordelia: Daisy Ward.
Fool: Joseph Taylor.
Doctor: Simon Purse.
Gloucester: Richard Derrington.
Edmund: Rikki Lawton.
Edgar: Tom McCarron.
The Duke of Cornwall: Stephen Harris.
The Duke of Albany: John Rayment.
The Prince of Burgundy/Oswald: Riley Madincea.
The Prince of France: Alexander Morelli.
Director: Phil Willmott.
Designer: Phil Lindley.
Lighting: Josh Phard.
Assistant director: John Sandberg.