Shakespeare’s Globe, London – until 14 October 2017
Many productions of King Lear have emerged over the past twelve months. However, from my personal point of view, this version resonates more keenly and Nancy Meckler’s direction emulates my own feelings when I read the play.
Of course, Lear is a tragedy, following the title role’s descent to madness which he self-catalyses when he pits his three daughters against the other and send his youngest away when she is unable to articulate her feelings in the same elaborate way that her elder two have done.
For the most part this incarnation is portrayed as a tragedy, however, it’s appropriately punctuated with comedy to enhance the equilibrium of the piece. Characterisation from each member of the cast felt natural, beautifully synchronised and there’s a strong sense of unity amongst the ensemble – even when characters’ paths are divided.
The set lent itself to the splendour of the Globe’s stage, so basic and stripped back that it laid way for the space itself to take the lead. There was a desolate council-estate feel to the backdrop, it set the tone for the piece and costumes added to the theme and ambiance created.
Emily Bruni was a strong and fiery Goneril, her feistiness was all consuming yet the nuances in her performance were engaging. Similarly, Sirine Saba as Regan was a force to be reckoned with, her facial expressions alone told the audience of her hatred for her foolish father. Saskia Reeves’ performance as Kent was inspired, vulnerability, sensitivity and an underlying sense of loyalty which the character battles with. Reeves was captivating in the role and has an extraordinary stage presence. Loren O’Dair gave a stunning performance as the Fool, incorporating her musical talent and with a Pierrot-style which made so much more of the part than merely a comedy aide. Ralph Davis brought great physicality to the role of Edmund, he connected superbly with each character whom he interacted with. Kevin McNally was surely born to play Lear, the sheer swiftness with which he delivers each radical character trait, remarkable in itself. The chemistry with his three daughters is palpable and although his frailty is not highlighted until later in the play, the suggestion is subtly present from the outset, kudos to McNally’s portrayal and ability. A finer Lear I have yet to see, especially as his comic timing is an asset, which would be wholly unexpected from such a piece and such a character.
The Globe’s King Lear strikes the perfect balance of tension, trauma, violence, devastation and comedy – all of which dovetail to produce an innovative version of the Bard’s famous tragedy. If you’ve never seen it on stage, this would be a perfect introduction, if you’ve seen previous productions, this one has plenty to offer and is worth giving your time to.
Images: Marc Brenner