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Emsworthian

Member Since 14 Sep 2011
Offline Last Active Mar 12 2014 08:36 AM
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Topics I've Started

Frank Langella's King Lear - Chichester

17 November 2013 - 10:37 AM

I couldn't find a thread on this so I'm starting one.  I saw this yesterday and found it a powerful staging.  I've seen previously a production of "King Lear" at the Fenice in Venice many years ago, the Chichester production with David Warner and, on DVD, Olivier's version.

Langella has terrific stage presence and demonstrated the authority of Lear and also his temper.  It is a bare set with just wooden planks as a backdrop and during the storm scene, Langella is completely drenched with rain.  The final scene with Cordelia was so moving and so completely believable that I cannot imagine it being done better.

I'll admit that when I learnt that Fool was to be played by Harry Melling, best known for his involvement in the "Harry Potter" series, my heart sunk but he was excellent.

My quibble with this production is with the sisters; critics have noted that in this version Goneril and Regan are played in a  sympathetic way in contrast to Cordelia's coldness.  I couldn't warm to Isabella Laughland's Cordelia at all.  Also, although Goneril and Regan's claim that it is their father who is being unreasonable in demanding hospitality not only for himself but all his knights  might strike a chord with the audience, the switch from reason and amiability in the sisters to evilness failed to convince me.  Is it that the audience is supposed to be taken in by the sisters initially in the way that Lear was?  Charles Spencer in the "Telegraph" compared the sisters to staff in nursing homes who are all smiles on the outside but are sadistic when no visitors are around.  I admired Lauren O'Neil's performance as Ann Taylor in "This House" but although her performance as Regan has been praised by several of the critics, as I have said, the portrayals of Regan and Goneril just didn't work for me in this production.  Others may think differently.  

A final thought:  this production seems to be selling very well at weekend but no so well during the week.  I wonder if this is that it is appealing mainly to a London audience?  (This production will be transferring to New York but is the only production in this country)