I'm not entirely sure why they had a character called “the boy” in this production, he wandered onto the broken stone steps (which formed the rear of the performing area) at the beginning of the play and seemed to hang around for most of the rest of it, saying very little but sharing occasional significant looks with King Lear and others. This is no reflection on the actor, who was just doing a job, and I may be imagining it but his presence did seem important and was never explained.
After the show I had a quick scan through the reviews from Liverpool (where this production started); it does that there have been a few changes. There weren't too many things to complain about in this production. It is as if a good solid straightforward play has been rescued from a mess. There are still some messy bits that seemed to interfere; such as when Lear crowd surfs his way on in the storm scene, and then has to perform with the rest of the cast throwing shapes (and I don't mean dancing) around him. I'm not sure what it was supposed to mean but it just looked silly and people giggled. Another thing to produce inappropriate tittering was the final duel which is still fought with obviously plastic toy swords. Edmund gets despatched in a rather odd way. Edgar appears to stab him in the mouth which is logically awkward as Edmund then has a few more speeches to make (through the fatal mouth wound).
Although the elements of football hooliganism mentioned in the earlier reviews are still there - in the looting and the St George's flag face paint – I didn't think it was foregrounded; at least I didn't think football hooligan before I read the reviews.
What we did get was a strong and powerful central performance from Pete Postlethwaite, even if he was wearing a dress for one scene (appropriately I thought). The rest of the cast were, I thought, good too – it's always good to see Nigel Cooke and Charlotte Randle. I liked the notion of Goneril's (Caroline Faber)pregnancy even if it made no sense at all. It was also good to see Forbes Masson as the fool although I got the impression that the director hadn't really worked out how to get rid of his character, he seemed to hang around a bit like “the boy”.