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Let's lear at Lear!
King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Member Name: peace1989
King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Date: 14/06/07, updated on 07/07/07 (186 review reads)
Advantages: Great perfomances, Just generally superb
Disadvantages: Long, Complicated
As i'm a sixth form student and one of my subjects is English Literature, I was lucky enough to get a free ticket to see the rather talked about performance of King Lear in Stratford (The Royal Shakespeare company). So after watching this just last night, I thought it was about time I rated something a littler classier than my usual choices!
I've never read King Lear before and didn't really know what it was about-just the bare basics. I'm also not the most Shakespear savvy person in the world, though saying that, I certainly grasped what was going on (even if you don't understand the language the actors were superb so you could tell what was going on merely from their actions and expression in their voice), so you don't really need to read the play to enjoy the performance. However, I would recommend having some idea of the plot, as it is very packed and a little complicated. So just for you:
King Lear-a powerful and rather egotistical man decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia (Cordelia being his favourite). In order to decide who shall get what, King Lear tells each of his daughters to make a speech about how much they love him. However, though Goneril and Regan make 'heart felt' speeches about how much they love their father, Cordelia refuses to play his silly game. Lear, in a fit of anger (as he is certainly not used to being disobeyed) banishes her and divides his kingdom between his other two daughters.
The King of France marries Cordelia, despite the fact that she now has nothing, and King Lear goes to stay with Goneril and Regan for two months in turn.
Whilst staying there, Lear and his soldiers very much out stay their welcome, much to the displeasure of his daughters. So, they maliciously plot against him, causing him to eventually loose his sanity, as well as everything else.
The Earl of Kent, who was banished for sticking up for Cordelia disguises himself as a servant, Caius, so that he can keep protecting Lear.
Aswell as all of this, Goneril and Regan are both attracted to Edmund, bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester and this isn't helped by Edmund's 'attraction' to both of them. Amongst this chaos, they are forced to deal with an army (led by Cordelia).
In addition to all of this, there's also a subplot involving the Earl of Gloucester and his two sons, Edgar and Edmund. Edmund creates lies about his Edgar, who is forced into exile as a result of this. He poses as a poor, mad man in order to avoid detection.
Gloucester is then horifically blinded by Regan's husband-the Duke of Cornwall. He is found by Edgar, whom of course, he cannot recognise.
Lear at this point, has gone totally mad and Cordelia are briefly reunited and reconciled before the battle between Britain and France.
Edgar then fights Edmund, wounding him (still in disguise). Goneril, who has poisoned Regan out of jealousy, kills herself upon seeing the death of her loved one.
Edgar then removes his disguise, showing his true identity to Edmund and informs him that their father has just died.
On hearing of his father's, and of Goneril and Regan's deaths, Edmund tells his brother his order to have the King and Cordelia murdered and gives orders for them to be reprieved.
This reprieve unfortunatley comes too late.
King Lear appears on stage with Cordelia's dead body in his arms.
He then dies himself.
(Sorry if i've got that wrong or muddled-there was a lot to follow!)
What can I say? Truly wonderous-the best performance I have ever seen in my life. I was in total awe, I really was.
From the dramatic first scene which established the true power of King Lear and his riches to the poignant final scene which truly portrayed how far this now, sad, old man had fallen and how much he had lost.
I also feel I should mention the amazing sword fights-the third being by far the best and truly had me on the edge of my seat.
Special mention has to be given to, of course, King Lear-played by Sir Ian McKellen. It's quite rare when watching a play that you forget you're actually witnessing fiction. Sir Ian played his role flawlessly, creating a array of mingled pity, fear and fustration throughout the audience.
Though this was a tradegy, the Fool, played by Sylvester McCoy, created some memorable laughs-one of my favourite scenes being where we are treated to the spoons!
Kings Lear's daughters (sorry, I couldn't find out who they were played by) were also exceptional and deserve a special mention. The way they interacted, especially with each other, portrayed entirely convincing sisters.
Everyone in this performance was truly amazing-but if I went through them each individually, i'd be here for ever!
_____The Royal Shakespeare Company's Interpretation_____
Trevor Nunn decided to set this play at the height of the Russian monarchy, to put the most possible emphasis on King Lear going from everything, to absolutley nothing; from splendor, riches and respect- to insanity, nakedness and shame.
Another scene was also added. Though it was mentioned in Shakespeare's text (by King Lear) it was never actually written. The scene which i'm referring to is where the Fool is hung.
____Costumes and Special Effects____
Again, because of the times the play was set, the costumes were actually amazing; the elaborate dresses worn by Lear's daughters down to the typical Russian soldier wear worn by Lear's men.
This isn't exactly a special effects kind of play, but the lighting was more than adequate and the storm was truly amazing. I think any more than this would have cheapened the whole thing
Well I have to mention the nudity don't I? Yes, that's right, Sir Ian gets his kit off! I had amazing seats and so saw....everything. However, it was handled very tastefully and I think it was necessary for the plot. The scene is so poignant and dramatic that to be honest, it doesn't really cause any shock at all. Just something to bear in mind if you want to take youngsters with you.
There are some scenes which make you jump (for example during the lightening storm or the sudden gun shots).
There is also some gore involved, but it's not too graphical.
The whole running time is 3 hours long with an interval of 20 minutes, which is a little long but so much happens I guess it's necessary to fit it all in.
My tickets were supposed to be £28 (had I not got them for free) and were very near the front, right in the centre.
For dates and pricing information you can call the box office for availability on 0844 800 1110
Or alternatively http://www.rsc.org.uk/WhatsOn/3533.aspx contains relevant information.
The whole experience was truely amazing, so if you can get your hands on some tickets, I really would recommend going.
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