King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe
King Lear is, of course, one of Shakespeare’s most challenging – and well-loved – plays. Featuring a plethora of beautiful speeches from both the titular character and others, a potent production cannot help but amaze – and director Helena Kaut-Howson’s production does succeed, with a few caveats.
The strongest point is, as one would expect, the casting. Kathryn Hunter’s Lear is a lot more fragile than in most productions. With her, one doesn’t necessarily get as much of the previously powerful monarch, but, instead, hers is a much softer, likeable Lear, inspiring love more than respect. Consequently, the character’s grievous laments seem all the more heart-wrenching, whereas the moments of rage lose some of their force: grief at the inevitability of old age, more than anything, becomes the focus. Ryan Donaldson’s villainous Edmund, meanwhile, has a much more humorous tone to him, which is just as well, given the heightened woes delivered by the lead. Michelle Terry fittingly stars as both Lear’s fool and Cordelia, and dominates in both performances.
The rest of the cast, too, are largely strong, although the odd issue with sound projection can make it at times harder to make out the verse. For the most part this isn’t much of a problem, although it is likely to be more impactful in the back rows.
The production itself is a mixed success. The costume design may suit well the individual characters as they appear on stage, but there is no consistency. The audience is treated to what looks like regal Anglo-Saxon attire, 20th century soldiers, contemporary business suits and even the occasional futuristic looking piece of clothing. While unusual approaches to the costumes can work, it does seem to lack rhyme or reason. The musical direction by Adrian Woodward, meanwhile, is outstanding. Featuring a brass band that almost serves as its own commentary on the occurrences on stage, it’s a welcome addition to the play and supremely atmospheric.
As such, King Lear at the Globe is a strong undertaking. With a heightened focus on Lear’s fragility and humanity, it is a strong contender and a neat addition to the Globe’s 2022 line-up.
King Lear is at Shakespeare’s Globe from 21st June until 24th July 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: