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King Lear


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#11 coated peanuts

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Posted 04 April 2007 - 11:20 PM

I thought the play was absolutely fantastic. It left me somewhere between speechless and babbling about how great it was. There were a few standing ovations as far as I could make out, but I sat in Row A and couldn't see much in the back.

I think there should be an export embargo on the production, they should be made to play the entirety of Great Britain, twice, before they can take it abroad. I want to see it again.


#12 Alexandra

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 09:28 AM

Sounds very exciting - looking forward to seeing it. Peanuts, did you see the understudy for Goneril?

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 09:32 AM

I see from the other thread that you did! Glad she was good too.

#14 Lynette

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 02:43 PM

You are so right coated ps, they should run it in London and tour here before going abroad. I tried to get more tix but they say they are booked out for the Stratford run. Any influence there anyone? Front row was great, eh? Got the full rustle of the skirts..

#15 coated peanuts

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 03:41 PM

QUOTE(Lynette @ Apr 5 2007, 03:43 PM) View Post
You are so right coated ps, they should run it in London and tour here before going abroad. I tried to get more tix but they say they are booked out for the Stratford run. Any influence there anyone? Front row was great, eh? Got the full rustle of the skirts..

Front row was the best. I was sitting in A1 and first thought that I might be watching half of the play from behind. As it turned out, 70 percent of the play took place right in front of my nose - I even got rained on in the storm scene. It was slightly strange when they left the Fool dangling for a bit in the break since he was literally hanging beside me and I started wondering whether I should help him down...

I booked for the Seagull to comfort myself over not being able to see Lear again. Figured the ensemble was so good, it would be worth to just see them perform again.

#16 Jenny_tyr

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 06:14 PM

I wasn't as blown away by this production as I had hoped to be, even if it's good it's not a five star production in my opinion, nor is it likely to be even when it opens. It's not altogether fair or easy to judge a production based on its previews, but you can usually get a fairly good idea of how it's going to turn out, and from what I saw on Thursday March 29th this looks like it's going to be alright, but not as good as you might have expected, considering some of the people involved with it. Do I need to put a spoiler alert here? Surely not, but anyone going to see it who wants to avoid hearing any details should probably stop reading right here.

McKellen is of course very good as Lear, particular as the king in his confused and wrecked state, and the ghost of the dreadful, *dreadful* Bergman production that has marred this play for me for so many years has finally been put to rest. Almost as good is Frances Barber, though now replaced due to an injury, as Goneril, and it was nice to see her playing against some worthy opposition after last year's disappointing A&C, where her excellent Cleopatra had the misfortune of playing against Nicholas Jones' wholly unbelievable Antony. The Fool is played by Sylvester McCoy, and who could have known that the old Dr Who would make such a great fool, wonderful and touching. These are the high points of the production, but there are a few things that unfortunately take away from these strong central performances, but as the production rests on McKellen's performance, and I have little doubt that it will be excellent by the time the production opens, it should be a great experience for anyone who gets to see it.

When Edgar and Edmund make their appearance it becomes clear that Nunn has opted for casting them as quite young, which is in itself not a bad decision, but there are reasons why particularly Edmund is often cast with a more mature actor. As it turns out, this casting of the brothers is only partially a mistake by Nunn, but it's one that threatens to unbalance the entire production. The actor playing Edgar (Ben Meyjes) does come into his own as Edgar falls from grace and begins his existence as poor Tom, but Edmund, played by Philip Winchester, remains a disastrous error in casting judgment. His Edmund is just too *nice* and likeable, and there is never, not at any moment, anything remotely sinister or dangerous about him, not even in the soliloquies where you don't believe for a moment that this young man would know his way around his plots and plans. Huge mistake this, to have an Edmund which, during his final scene, seems more like an embarrassed schoolboy who has been caught being naughty. Without a wicked, or at least amoral, Edmund the whole Regan-Edmund-Goneril love triangle feels totally fake and you can't imagine that this toy-boy could in anyway attract the interest of Barber's fierce Goneril, certainly not to the point that she kills herself over him.

There were some performances that hadn't quite gelled yet that night, such as Jonathan Hyde as Kent, whose first scenes felt a bit stilted and Julian Harries' earnest Albany doesnít seem as interesting as for instance John Bird's more cynical Albany in the BBC version, but these are likely to come together before the play opens. Guy Williams was very good as Cornwall, and I found that John Heffernan as Oswald managed to make his rather small part seem much bigger, which was quite an achievement, well done indeed. I wasn't blown away by Regan (Monica Dolan) or Cordelia (Romola Garai), but they weren't bad either and here only time will tell if the performances will strengthen as the production finds its feet. I never felt emotionally touched by Lear's final scene with the dead Cordelia but Iím unsure why, and perhaps that's just me being a cold-hearted bastard :-) Possibly this will gain more impact with time.

Some of the staging decisions are odd, even though the idea to set this is some sort of Russian pre-revolutionary era works alright enough. The constant and never ending smoky haze that continues to hang over the scene is a mystery, and at first I thought that the smoke machine was broken and stuck on "on", but as it stopped during the interval only to begin when the play resumed, I can only surmise that it must have been a directorial decision behind it. Very peculiar.

One thing that I didn't agree with at all was where Nunn has chosen to take Lear's line "and my poor fool is hanged" (scene 5.3), which he utters as Cordelia lies dead. Even if most editors agree that it refers to Cordelia everyone is of course entitled to interpret the line any way they like, but I feel that Nunn has chosen to take this one step too far. He has inserted an additional bit of action based on that line where we see the Fool for the last time at the end of that stormy night; here a band of soldiers come onto the stage, seize the unlucky Fool and proceed to string him up from the nearest piece of scaffolding, which is one liberty taken too far in my opinion.

The program stated that the length would be 3 hours 20 minutes, including the interval, but it clocked in at 3.35, so there might be further cuts still to come. Without checking against the text, there didn't seem to be much that had been cut, but I think that some of Edgar and Gloucester's scenes were slightly shortened, though not by much. It was certainly good, but I was seriously underwhelmed, possibly because I had such high expectations for this.

//Jenny

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#17 David

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 06:24 PM

I didn't read beyond the spoiler warning (Jenny), but coated peanuts has made me very excited about this one!

#18 coated peanuts

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 07:02 PM

QUOTE(David @ Apr 5 2007, 07:24 PM) View Post
I didn't read beyond the spoiler warning (Jenny), but coated peanuts has made me very excited about this one!

Maybe you should read Jenny's spoilers and crank down the exitement to avoid disappointment. Saying that, I was exited about seeing it, so that didn't affect my experience. I hadn't actually seen Lear before, so I didn't have any expectations/preferences on how certain parts should be played which probably makes it easier to get into a new version of a play.




Spoilery reply to Jenny's post:


Kent was spot-on for me and I though he gave an excellent performance. Edgar was a bit too wet in the first couple of scenes and I was glad when he changed tack. As to Edmund: I don't think that amoral people come across as sinister, horrible fiends. The scary thing about them is that they appear to be very charming and persuasive, which is what Edmund seemed like to me. Scheming in the back-ground, not giving a thought whether what he is doing is right or wrong, since his actions are solely judged on whether they benefit him. He seemed to not be able to believe his good luck, with Edgar being such a goody-two-shoes who'd never suspect him and I believed that the character literally saw it as his duty to exploit such stupidity. Rather than perceiving himself as a great dark power, he simply advanced himself whenever he could without a thought to others. Once he was found out, he'd try to wiggle his way out of his predicament, and that's how I took his contrite confession about having send someone to kill Lear. He might have thought that he'll die, but if not he'd rather not have Lear's blood on his hands as well. Great manipulators never appear as such to the manipulated and I liked that Edmund wasn't twirling his mustache on stage.

#19 David

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 09:41 PM

QUOTE(coated peanuts @ Apr 5 2007, 08:02 PM) View Post
Maybe you should read Jenny's spoilers and crank down the exitement to avoid disappointment. Saying that, I was exited about seeing it, so that didn't affect my experience. I hadn't actually seen Lear before, so I didn't have any expectations/preferences on how certain parts should be played which probably makes it easier to get into a new version of a play.


No no, I trust you- and to be honest I was already fairly excited: I've not seen Lear either!

#20 thecrucible

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Posted 06 April 2007 - 12:17 PM

I saw this last week and agree with a lot of Jenny's points. I did love it, though, in spite of that and would heartily recommend it to anyone who is going to see it or can get returns.

I think Jenny's comments about Edmund are pretty accurate. He seemed a bit inexperienced for the role and struggling to match the heavyweights round him like Frances Barber, William Gaunt and McKellen. For a role so integral to the piece, that was a problem for me. For me, his villainy was actually too obvious - I never once believed him when he was lying to his father or to Edgar and his switches into gloating Edmund with the audience were played almost like a panto villain at times. I don't know to what extent that's the direction Trevor Nunn edged him towards but to me it came across as the slightly unsubtle performance of someone relatively young.
And I didn't think he was sexy (personal taste I know) - handsome, yes, but not darkly sexy enough for the sisters - I kept thinking of Finbar Lynch in Richard Eyre's production who just oozes bad boy sex appeal. But like I say, sexiness does tend to be in the eye of beholder and what I didn't see, someone else might have.

For the others, I thought McKellen was fantastic and a real master of verse speaking at work, I thought William Gaunt was lovely as Gloucester and a great match for Sir Ian - it really made the piece about two fathers, not just one. Jonathan Hyde I found had a very odd vocal thing going on - a bit hammy, perhaps? But a great energy and drive to him.

Romola Garai did alright for only her second stage performance but boy can you tell she hasn't had the vocal training. I found her nasal and with a real struggle to control her breath and the verse. Experience will probably improve that but when you think of all the briliant young actresses around, with full vocal training, it did make me wonder whether her casting was more about "star power" than a real ability to match the performance required.

The only thing I didn't like was - possibly a slight spoiler here? - the collapse of the set at the end of the first half. I didn't really like the huge back wall (no, that's not true - I thought it was unnecessary) but I imagine it's there for the Seagull more than King Lear. But I didn't think we needn't to see bits collapsing - it seemed a bit tricksy for a piece that told its story and communicated its meaning so well through the performances.

But all in all a fantastic piece of theatre. And it was 3 1/2 hours when I saw it but I didn't notice it go by.




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