Ian McKellen immediately makes the intimate space his own, the dialogue almost conversational and his Lear a warm-hearted soul with a twinkle in his eye. This is surely as good as it gets, an actor using every bit of knowledge he has acquired in a storied career to make his role feel so natural.
It’s somehow fitting that the last Shakespeare of Emma Rice’s final (summer) season is King Lear. A play that shows us how the established world can change based on one rash decision will certainly have some resonance at a venue who made the decision to terminate Rice’s employment as Artistic Director so early on.
Jez Butterworth and Sam Mendes are names pretty much guaranteed to make any theatregoing regular pay attention, both are synonymous with high quality productions (Butterworth’s Jerusalem regularly crops up among best play lists while Mendes’ list of director credits is too long to replay here) and they worked together on Spectre, the most recent movie in the James Bond franchise.
As a regular theatre goer I’m often asked by friends what plays and musicals I’d most like to see a production of… not the shows I just haven’t had a chance to catch but the ones that don’t really get to see the light of day. Somehow in the past year The Union Theatre has managed to tick two off from right at the top of the list.
Stephen Lowe’s Touched is a curious play… flat on the page, it comes alive on the stage! Lowe’s story of a trio of sisters, their friend and family and the curious time between VE day and the end of the war perfectly highlights the struggles these women had to face, and the freedom they were about to lose!
There’s a reason it’s a lesser known play, all of the usual Tennessee Williams tropes are here; lust abounds, there are layers of manipulation and the sweltering south is almost a character in its own right. Nonetheless it is all strung together by a fairly ropey plot that layers on unsubtle statements on southern politics in the 50’s.