Sunday, April 27, 2008

King Lear by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare's Globe, 23-Apr-2008 – Directed by Dominic Dromgoole

I sometimes regret not seeing productions at the Globe later in their run. I suspect or possibly just hope, that they improve as the actors get used to the space and the way they need to play the lines to the audience.
While there is something to be said for seeing the play on Shakespeare's birthday, I'm not sure that all the performances hit the mark. I didn't think David Calder had quite got the menacing petulance and sudden anger of Lear, although it was certainly ready to break the surface. The delivery of another actor, who has been doing stuff at the Globe a few times now, seemed to alternate between extremely effective and very flat. Also there were a few longeurs where actors slowly processed across the stage. This was especially noticeable at the interval when the audience wanted to applaud but had to wait for the recently (and bloodily – eyeballs and everything) blinded Gloucester to be led the long way off the stage.
All of this will improve by the day but I think that people are going say something about the awkward storm scenes where the 'cuts' back to the to the castle were performed on the balcony leaving Lear, Kent, Gloucester et al. to walk slowly in a circle on the stage.
Another thing that has been creeping up on me over the years of watching King Lears (I think it is about 15 productions now) and is now fairly obvious to me is the incredibly poor 'time management' in the play. I'm not talking about how long it is (in this production the 3+ hours went by fairly quickly with a few drawn-out bits) but how Shakespeare manages the passing of time. The major problem for me is Edgar's transformation into Mad Tom which seems to last a night but that doesn't explain how he's so good at it and why people appear to know who Mad Tom is. Doubtlessly there are essays and explanations in books but I'm not going to take the time to read them.
Something I would like to see (slightly prompted by a feeling of colourlessness in tonight's Cordelia) in a production of King Lear is to have Cordelia and the Fool played by the same actor. I'm not saying the Fool should be Cordelia in disguise, that would be obvious and kludgey, but I'd like to see an echo of it. Of course there will be good reasons not to do it , probably because they want a good comedian to make the fool actually funny and aren't looking for too much in Cordelia. Still I'd like to see it tried.

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