Monday, March 21, 2011

'King Lear' by William Shakespeare

21 March 2011

Week three of my theatrical hearing test: last Thursday we were back at Milton Keynes Theatre to see the Donmar production of ‘King Lear’ with Derek Jacobi, directed by Michael Grandage. We were sitting right at the back of the upper circle, even further from the stage than for ‘Hamlet’ a couple of weeks ago. Concerned about whether we would again have difficulty hearing the actors, we were delighted to discover that the performance was to be captioned by Stagetext, only to realise that we were sitting so far back that we could barely read the captions! Once the play got underway, however, we realised we needn’t have worried: the acting was excellent and we could hear everything without any difficulty (though the Stagetext captions were incredibly helpful in identifying which character was which). This production used a bare, boarded set with hardly any props or furniture – the changes of scene being signified by a very creative use of lighting. Inventive as this was, towards the end of the play (which ran for just under three hours) the scenes did begin to blur together. But the storm scene – conjured by flashing lights shining through the gaps between the boards on the floor and walls of the stage and freezing to silence for Lear’s spookily amplified whispered speech – was great. Derek Jacobi was fantastic as Lear – playful, spritely and capricious: a relatively young old man whose descent into madness was believably painful. And Gina McKee was stunning as Goneril – commanding the stage with an icy determination.

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