Friday, September 02, 2016

'King Lear' by William Shakespeare

2 September 2016

On Thursday we were at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to see Greg Doran’s new RSC production of ‘King Lear’ starring Anthony Sher. I first saw ‘King Lear’ at the old RST in 1993 with Robert Stephens in the title role and I was interested to discover that, like Anthony Sher now, Robert Stephens had also recently played Falstaff in ‘Henry IV Parts 1 & 2’ for the RSC. Watching Anthony Sher I was struck by the similarities between Lear and Falstaff: if you extended the scene in ‘Henry IV Part 1’ where Falstaff pretends to be the King to imagine him actually ruling you might conclude that his reign would have ended in the disastrous way depicted in ‘King Lear’. Sher’s Lear looks like Charlton Heston as Moses, particularly in the storm scene on a spectacularly elevated heath. Anthony Sher is always a compelling actor and his journey from belligerent tyrant to whimsical madman is fascinating to watch. It was also great to see David Troughton back at the RSC as Gloucester – losing his eyes in an excruciatingly brutal scene set within a transparent box whose walls dripped with blood. This was a fairly bare production with little staging, leaving the focus on the actors themselves. And one of the main beneficiaries was rising RSC star Paapa Essiedu (who we last saw in ‘Hamlet’, reviewed here in April 2016) whose performance as Edmund very nearly stole the show.

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