Posts Tagged ‘King Lear’

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Northern Broadsides’ King Lear: A Review

May 28, 2015

KING_LEAR

Northern Broadsides Production

King Lear, Dir. Jonathan Miller

Rose Theatre, Kingston

Friday, 22 May, 2015

A review by Lucy Menon (Cardiff University alumna)

On the evening of Friday 22nd May 2015, I attended the Northern Broadsides’ production of Shakespeare’s King Lear at the Rose Theatre in Kingston.

One of the striking features of this production of King Lear was the Northern accents of the cast; these accents served to reinforce the concept of familial bonds for me as it seemed the ‘down-to-earth’ intonations in the lilt transgressed the idea of it being a royal family and made it instantly more familiar and heightened the tragedy in the sense that it could easily be your own family undergoing such tensions. However, through a very strong cast and able direction from Jonathan Miller, the elevated nature of the play was still maintained and a sense of inner, as well as political, conflict was achieved.

They made good use of a minimal set: a wooden frame, reminiscent of an extremely large curtain rail, complete with deep red velvet curtain wound over the top pole on the left side; wooden tables and benches that were not always present or moved around the stage for various scene changes. The wooden frame literally, as well as metaphorically, served to frame and focus the action on stage. It also took on a more active use when Edgar (Jack Wilkinson), disguised as Tom, would kiss and hold the wooden pole which served to emphasise his disconnection from the others in his own madness. He also took on an almost Jesus-like figure through his nakedness, wounds and crown of thorns and adopting positions with his arms and legs around the wooden frame that almost paralleled a crucifixion stance.

Barrie Rutter gave a convincing performance of the proud king dwindling to a dishevelled old man. Lear’s madness is seemingly a result of his grief and inner turmoil rather than genuine insanity and so seems even more tragic as it reinforces the idea that he is aware of his misdeeds and ill treatment of others and is a fact he will have to bear. When eventually reunited with Cordelia, their interaction is incredibly touching and he becomes the doting father that he should have been from the start: the poignancy is not lost on the audience who realise that this is all too late. In his attempts to reassure her when they are taken to prison we are made to realise what Lear himself realises: this is quite possibly the outcome of his own actions and in some way is responsible for the death of his dutiful daughter. His distress and disbelief at her demise in the concluding moments of the play are highly charged and when he asks for his clothes to be loosened the physical reaction to his emotional grief is made obvious as his heart is literally breaking.

The Fool’s (Fine Time Fontayne) make-up of white face paint with black crosses over his eyes, in a stereotypical clown fashion, gave him an eerie quality and made him appear quite sinister when coupled with the dark replies and dead-pan humour he provides. Appearing after Cordelia leaves and disappearing when she returns, the Fool serves as her stage presence by continually commenting upon Lear’s foolishness and so becoming a disturbing reminder for Lear of his errors.

The three sisters were well cast with Helen Sheals, Nicola Sanderson and Catherine Kinsella playing Goneril, Regan and Cordelia respectively. The strength of the bond between the elder siblings was accentuated when contrasted with those they appeared to share with their father, which did not hold even when slightly tested. The pair are also united through similar body language as well as facial expressions, such as eye-rolling, they both managed to convey their irritation and true feelings about their father which was often quite humorous (after all, who hasn’t been frustrated by an aging parent?) as well as being a source of tension within the play. However, the true spiteful and vicious nature of the sisters, as pointed out by Cordelia in the opening scenes, is still overwhelmingly clear; it is not only their behaviour towards their father that reveals this, it is also the way they lust after Edmund. Eventually, it is the duplicitous Edmund that is the catalyst for the severing of their sisterly affection for each other.

Edmund (Al Bollands) was a suitably suave and simpering son and suitor. Testimony to his ability, it was as though his actions could be understood even if they were horrifically executed and his lies were presented as easily believable. The gulling of Gloucester seems to be done with ease and this poor judgement upon Edgar, with the heavy price upon it, seems to be too hastily accepted. With a commanding stage presence, it was made obvious how the characters Edmund sought to embroil in his plots were easily deceived. His exchanges with Edgar show him at once to be similar to his brother in terms of strength and speech style but also very different as his loyalty lies ultimately to himself. An interesting parallel was that both Edgar and Edmund cut their own left palm at different points in the play; symbolically it is as though they are blood brothers and they are of the same flesh, which is indeed the very bone of contention between them.

Strangely, there seemed to be a greater amount of laughter elicited from the lines throughout the whole production than I had initially expected. Having previously only read the text and examined it as a “tragedy” it is often easy to miss how instances, even though poignant, can also be humorous. I feel that Jos Vantyler deserves a particular mention: his Oswald seemed to have the air of an 80s pop icon which worked wonderfully and he seemed very at home on the stage. His camp attitude while acting as go-between and shrinking from his skirmish with Kent (Andrew Vincent) disguised as a servant provided the audience with light relief and also established a depth to his character.

The blinding of Gloucester (John Branwell) was well enacted and occurred at the back of the stage in a blinding bright light and shrouded in smoke so the audience were given the impression of being close and present but without actually witnessing anything which made it unsettling and effective. In fact, the production used explicit violence minimally (even the fight between Edgar and Edmund at the end was presented in slow motion and more of a choreographed exchange of blows) and this served to enhance the atmosphere as the horror was certainly obvious but not protracted.

Indeed, overall, for this interpretation, words spoke more than actions: considering the power of the language in this play it meant an even greater emotional impact was able to be wrought when the emphasis was not necessarily placed on the visual and the Northern accents helped to establish a very heartfelt portrayal of the destruction of relationships.

***

You can still catch the production in Newcastle-under-Lyme until mid-June:

http://www.northern-broadsides.co.uk/

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‘[Theatre], thy name is woman’: Theatrical Value and Power in Shakespeare

April 24, 2013

Johann Gregory (Cardiff University) will be giving a paper entitled “‘[Theatre], thy name is woman’: Theatrical Value and Power in Shakespeare” at the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft Annual Conference, Munich, 26 – 28 April 2013.

Find out more about the conference here.

“The Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft (German Shakespeare Society) was founded in 1864. It is one of the oldest literary associations in Europe, if not the world, and has about 2,000 members. It promotes the investigation with William Shakespeare’s works, particularly in the German-speaking countires. In doing so, it co-operates closely with scholars, teachers and artists.”

Paper Abstract

Freud suggested that in The Merchant of Venice the caskets are “symbols of the essential of femininity, hence of woman herself”. Quoting this passage, Bourdieu noticed how in Flaubert’s A Sentimental Education a silver casket is transferred between three women: in the novel, he argues, the significance of the casket “involves a homologous social scheme as well, to wit, the opposition between art and money”. According to Bourdieu, the three women come to be associated with different literary fields. Thus, Mme Arnoux might represent high art, while “mercenary art, […] represented by bourgeois theatre [is] associated with the figure of Mme Dambreuse, and minor mercenary art, represented by vaudeville, cabaret or the serial novel, [is] evoked by Rosanette”. Flaubert’s novel invites its readers to reflect on artistic fields. Shakespeare’s work can also be seen in a similar light, and a comparable technique seems to be noticeable when women are associated with performance in the plays.

The character of the Fool is often read as a symbol of the theatre, but this paper briefly explores the theatrical symbolism of Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Cressida in Troilus and Cressida and Cordelia in King Lear. It argues that Shakespeare’s characterisation of these three women can be seen to foreground issues of theatrical value and currency: Portia’s characterisation invites the audience to reflect on the power of a (financed) theatre; the characterisation of Cressida negotiates the theme of the theatre as prostitution; and, in Cordelia, King Lear seems to bewail the apparent failure of theatre to communicate its value. The paper thus responds to critical thinking on the making of theatrical value (Paul Yachnin), fictions of cultural production (Patrick Cheney), and the question of Shakespeare’s autonomy (Stephen Greenblatt / Richard Wilson).

Portia in Film 1992

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King Lear at The Tobacco Factory

February 23, 2012

One of the pinnacles of world drama, and Shakespeare’s greatest masterpiece, King Lear is the most complete account we have of what it is – and what it is not – to be human.

The play launched Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory on an unsuspecting world in February 2000; the company is delighted to offer this new production to a much larger audience in 2012. 

King Lear is played by John Shrapnel.

Directed by Andrew Hilton
Designed by Harriet de Winton

John Shrapnel is a commanding actor with a long and enviable track record in both theatre and film. He has a huge raft of work with The National Theatre from Olivier’s days to Hytner’s, played in films for Warner Brothers, Dreamworks and Working Title and has worked extensively in Television and Radio. He recently played Gloucester opposite Pete Postlethwaite in Rupert Goold’s Liverpool Production.

Andrew Hilton’s commanding production … is once again a revelationElizabeth Mahoney, The Guardian, on 2011’s Richard II

One of the finest productions of Shakespeare – or any other playwright for that matter – seen in Bristol in yearsToby O’Connor Morse, The Independent, on the 2000 production of King Lear

Please note since first announced there has been a change to the casting. See Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory’s website for more details.

See the youtube video about the production here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0jGE-utQ7w&feature=player_embedded

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Act One: King Lear in Cardiff

January 4, 2012

31st January – 4th February 2012 (7pm)

YMCA Theatre

A dramatic re-telling of one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, this production seeks to bring Lear to a wider audience by heightening the violence and raw power of the text, and re-imagining some of its famous characters.

Britain in the not-too-distant future. The world has been torn apart by natural disasters, political crisis and war, and society has long since crumbled. Criminal gangs control what is left of the dilapidated cities.

Lear is the weary leader of a gang of survivors, when tragedy strikes and he splits his kingdom between his two sadistic daughters, banishing the third into the arms of his enemy. Meanwhile, ex-policeman Gloucester is corrupted by his bitter illegitimate son Edmund, forcing his older son to flee into the decaying underbelly of the city.

Torn apart by deceit, betrayal and madness, the characters begin to fight amongst themselves. A storm breaks over the city.

For some, the world will end.

 

See trailer at http://vimeo.com/33433620

Directed by Madison Fowler & Piers Horner

 

YMCA Theatre

The Walk

Cardiff

CF24 3AG

TICKETS:

http://shop.cardiffstudents.com/venues/ymca-theatre

02920 781 458

boxoffice@cardiffstudents.com

Tickets £6 students, £6.50- non-students

Visit Act One – Cardiff University’s theatre company – here.

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Tracing the Snail in King Lear and Renaissance Painting

June 20, 2011

The lastest issue of English Studies (92.4) contains Johann Gregory‘s review of Shakespeare’s Spiral: Tracing the Snail in “King Lear” and Renaissance Painting by François-Xavier Gleyzon.

Visit the journal here.

 

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King Lear performance in Cardiff

May 19, 2011

King Lear

by William Shakespeare
Director David Bond

Tue 31 May – Sat 4 June

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

 

“Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason…”

One of the greatest dramatic masterpieces in English literature, Shakespeare’s masterwork asks familiar questions of how we live and how we might be allowed to live as the state cracks open.

Time: 7.30pm
Matinee Fri 3 June 2.30pm

Venue: Bute Theatre

Tickets: £10, £8 concessions

Visit the RWCMD website here.

Visit the event facebook page here.

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Lear Ananci: A play by National & Cacique Award Winning Playwright

November 5, 2010

DAVLIN THOMAS’ VERSION OF SHAKESPEARE’S ‘ KING LEAR’ WAS PRODUCED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES IN THE YEAR 2000. THIS ORIGINAL WORK RECEIVED THE CACIQUE AWARD ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL DRAMA ASSOCIATION OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO IN THE CATEGORY OF ‘MOST ORIGINAL SCRIPT’.

The author has just contacted Cardiff Shakespeare with the following comment:

Caribbean Magical realism window to Shakespeare’s King Lear; I invite you to acquire a copy, read and comment.  The play ‘Lear Ananci’ can be found at the following link;

http://www.amazon.com/Lear-Ananci-National-Cacique-Playwright/dp/1453842705/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1288956820&sr=8-1

Many thanks
Davlin Thomas

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