Pros: The concept of splitting Shakespeare’s play into two separate stories is an interesting one. You can’t fault the story – Lear is an immense character and his daughters’ loyalty and betrayal make for compelling viewing.
Cons: The delivery of the dialogue didn’t hit the mark and many of the actors were difficult to hear or understand. At almost two hours long without an interval, it was just too uncomfortable for the audience.
Our Lear is an adaptation of the original Shakespeare play, King Lear. The concept, as explained after the show by the director, George Eugeniou, is that King Lear is actually the tale of two families – Lear and his three daughters and the Earl of Gloucester and his two sons. The Ancient Greek playwrights believed that every story deserves its own play, and this adaptation, following those traditions, splits the two stories into their own separate productions. The result is two plays that “chronicle the struggle of two fathers, their divisions and the chaos they create within their families out if sheer stupidity”. It was Lear’s story that I came to see (Edmund the Bastard is shown on alternate nights) and being familiar with the play, I was interested to see how it worked stripped of the subplot.
You cannot beat a tale as told by the Bard and Lear’s story is no exception. Lear asks for a declaration of love and admiration from his three daughters in exchange for control of his kingdom. Regan and Goneril espouse their virtuous adoration eloquently whilst Cordelia states quite bluntly that she cannot compare her love for him to anything at all, it is what it is. In a rage, Lear strips her of her dowry and banishes her from the kingdom. Regan and Goneril inherit half the kingdom each and then later turn on their father to strip him of his wealth and order his execution. Cordelia and Lear are reunited, Lear realises his error of judgement all but too late.
The trick in drawing the audience into such fantastic storytelling is to ensure the archaic language is delivered with meaning, clarity and genuine understanding of character. Unfortunately, this production falls well short of the mark on all counts. In an attempt to narrate the story, the show opens with an introduction, which is read like a shopping list of events and adds little to the understanding of the plot. Then the delivery of the dialogue is rushed, mumbled and faltered – the actors raced and stumbled through their lines without really communicating the character or the context with any substance. With the exception of David Middleton, whose portrayal of Lear was energetic and well presented and a few moments of clarity, the dialogue was on the whole indecipherable and often inaudible and there was little of the characters portrayed. This was exacerbated by the stage direction. Actors paced around the stage, walking about as they talked, circling like cagey animals. There was far too much movement, which added distraction to the already beleaguered drama.
This play, although abridged, goes on for nearly two hours without an interval. This is a lot to ask of any audience even in a comfortable seat in an air conditioned theatre, but in the overheated Theatro Technis it was just too long – everyone, especially the cast, were sweating buckets. There should be an interval and there are plenty of natural places for one. Breaking Shakespeare’s King Lear into two separate plays is an interesting idea and this production could succeed with a stronger cast, more considered stage direction and an interval.
Adaptation of the play written by: William Shakespeare
Director: George Eugeniou
Booking until: 8th June 2014
Box office: 020 7387 6617
Booking link: firstname.lastname@example.org