King Lear; the timeless tragedy that can still pull at the heart strings of audiences to this day. The story of an ageing king of Britain who descends into utter madness after splitting his estate between two out of three of his daughters, swayed by their false flattery.
Being pretty much a Shakespeare groupie, I’ve seen countless productions of King Lear. One thing that strikes me in every production – including the Crescent’s adaptation, is the need to modernize. In 1962 the Royal Shakespeare Company produced a version of King Lear critics hailed as “revolutionary”, and quite rightly so. The Paul Schofield Lear was very much the man in the wrong as well as the wronged man. Taking influence from Bechtian theatre, the flat white setting and leather costumes seems to have impacted performances to come.
From what I have seen, the theme of a totalitarian state has creeped its way into King Lear productions ever since. The Crescent Theatre was no exception, their costumes slowly changing from modern evening wear to leather kit ready for combat. Colours are used to represent members of the family, almost like they’re political parties (red; Lear and Cordelia at the beginning, purple; Regan and orange; Goneril) which changed throughout the chorus’ costumes to show the disloyalty circulating within the realm.
There was some good and some bad in the individual performances. King Lear’s descend into madness was nicely done and reflected by set (not wanting to give too much away I’ll just say; it will make you jump) and the moment he recognises his daughter Cordelia was really intimate, to me the most sensitive part of the play.
Despite some line troubles which disconnected you slightly, the actor of Lear is cleverly portrayed as a wronged and yet also foolish old man. Poor Tom and the Fool had elements of comedy but also a shrewd understanding of how the mad man and the fool often offer the greatest insights of wisdom. The character of Edmund was great as a sleazy ladies man.
The moment of Earl of Gloucester’s blinding didn’t disappoint being as gruesome as ever. People squirmed in the seats next to me and yet no one can take their eyes off (awful pun not intended!) the spectacle.
While some sensitivity was lost in the play the production isn’t to be dismissed. The Crescent theatre does a good job in modernising King Lear and yet keeping a very human response to a broken family. An alternative way to spend a Saturday night; because nights out in the temperatures this time of the year are never fun.
King Lear is on at the Crescent until Saturday 15th November.
By Hattie Jordan.