Never, never, never, never…King Lear. Globe Theatre. London. June 2008.

So after watching the lighthearted Dream in the afternoon I prepared myself for what I think is the most confrontational of tragedies, King Lear.

Lear is a monster of a part. Hundreds of lines, covering madness, rage, despair, sadness, loss, grief, unbridled joy, selfishness alongside tiny shards of altruism. I have seen a few Lear's, some unsympathetic and just so irritating and tyrannical you find yourselves seeing the point of Goneril and Regan (never a comfortable place to side).

So it was a pleasure to see a sympathetic Lear presented by David Calder. He is a large, bear-like man with kindly eyes and a generous white beard. It was easy to imagine him being Santa at a children’s party. It was this sense of gentleness, which made his tragic fall all the more engaging. Rather than being an overgrown spoilt child, he appeared genuinely distressed at the lack of closeness between him and his children. Short sighted and quick tempered he may have been, but spiteful and unpleasant he was not. His descent into madness was still touched with a basic humanity that spoke volumes, and his joy at being reunited with Cordelia was lovely, therefore being all the more heart-rending acting as it does as a harbinger of their imminent deaths.

Perhaps there is nothing quite as tragic as a parent losing a child, and this too was conveyed beautifully by the sad, hopeless look of Calder as he arrives on stage with the saddest lines in Shakespeare;
‘Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,

And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more'
It always makes me cry, and this performance was no exception.

This was a strong cast, and pleasingly the lovely Trystan Gravelle made an excellent Edgar. I say pleasingly because in the past I have often found Edgar a bit…well…annoying. Edmund is usually a much more interesting character, but Gravelle’s Edgar was tough and determined. His relationship with his father was very affecting, and again there were tears.

Kellie Bright as Regan also put in a strong performance. Regan became a debauchee, drinking and virtually straddling Gloucester as the poor soul’s eyes were put out. This scene was one of the most grotesque ones I have ever seen in the theatre, with a suitable amount of gore and even what appeared to be the optic nerve popping out for good measure. One of the few occasions where I wished I were not quite so near the front.

Final word must go to Paul Copley as Kent. Dear old Kent, faithful, loyal and genuinely fond of his monarch. A very touching performance: Indeed a very tender production of such a nihilistic vision of the world.


Anonymous said…
I saw this last night (at a midnight performance - AWESOME), not having read the play and only being vaguely aware of the plot, and I'm so glad I did. Parts of this almost moved me to tears, and Calder as Lear was stupendous. I also liked not knowing who exactly was going to snuff it at the end (and I was impressed - is that the most bodies a Shakespeare play leaves piled on the stage at the end?). My one complaint was that the wind and thunder machines were SO effective during the storm scene that they drowned out Lear's actual words!
Jules said…
Ooh. I would love to have seen a midnight cool!!!

Glad you enjoyed it. It is quite an impressive body count. I think Titus may exceed it ( Lear: 5, Titus: about 7 or 8 if include the human head pasty)
Hamlet has quite a goodly number too.

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