King Lear at Shakespeare’s GlobeCultureTheatre
Artistic director Dominic Dromgoole has provided a very eloquent and candid rendition of King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe – all the more compelling as the stage is outdoors and therefore devoid of certain theatrical enhancements, creating a sense of simplicity and reality. Director Nancy Meckler has strikingly emphasised the physicality of performance as a way of exploring the characters’ unexpressed inner thoughts and motivations.
A study of the relationship between parent and child, this classic story of an ageing king who demands proof of devotion from his daughters as a bribe for their inheritance is a contemplation of the struggle of human emotion fueled by love but clouded by insanity and avarice. Here vigorously and outstandingly well acted by Kevin R McNally, King Lear is presented as distinctly unregal, wearing rather battered clothing, which effectively summons an impression of a degenerating mind and soul. McNally’s Lear brilliantly incorporates cruelty, a sense of the ridiculous, humour, madness and yet subtle poignancy of feeling.
The king’s daughters Regan and Goneril are flawlessly played by Sirine Saba and Emily Bruni, who convincingly convey faithless deceit, and Anjana Vasan is excellent as the more innocent younger child Cordelia. Joshua James is exceptional as both Edgar and his alter ego Poor Tom, while Ralph Davis also shines as his brother Edmund.
At first featuring a cast of squatters, this version of King Lear doesn’t give the same emphasis to the subject of homelessness. The work is more focused on the beauty and pain of personal relationships and on King Lear’s unravelling mind, despite the unconventional costuming.
The set is quite simple with everything mostly boarded up then gradually removed, symbolising the idea of freeing the world from barriers and prejudice. An incredible light show – combined with percussion and a wind machine, producing an extraordinary and evocative storm scene – is a true highlight of this play.
Of the many versions of the classic that have been produced, King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe is a fascinating interpretation thereof. It’s powerful, with outstanding performances, and made particularly effective by its outdoor setting – a recommended viewing.
King Lear is at the Shakespeare’s Globe from 10th August until 14th October 2017. For further information or to book visit their website here.