Pros: A seasoned Bob Young plays King Lear with depth and intensity.
Cons: The delivery of this elaborate monologue would have benefited from longer pauses. England’s bold response to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the Camden Fringe which, during four weeks in August, brings over 900 events to different venues in North London.
As a part of this festival, Inamoment Theatre presents King Lear (alone), written and directed by Frank Bramwell, author of several works based on Shakespearean masterpieces like Macbeth, The Tempest and Hamlet. Selecting original dialogues and characters, Bramwell aims to offer alternative endings, or more simply, highlight different points of view within the plot. His remakes have reached a considerable success. His play Romeo & Juliet for All Time won an award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2004.
The hosting venue is the lovely Lion and Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town, a 60-seat studio committed to presenting a wide selection of timeless classics and contemporary productions throughout the year. Sadly, it wasn’t particularly full and every little movement in the auditorium could be heard over the actor’s voice. Which to the detriment of the general atmosphere, I expected to be grave in such an intimate space.
The set is plain, as to reproduce an empty room filled only with Lear’s phantasms and flashbacks from the immediate past. In the corner there is a naked tree with some white masks skewered through their eye sockets. A hanged doll with a pristine dress and long blond hair is facing the wall.
Bob Young, in the title role, is a powerful performer. His tormented character takes shape thanks to his profound voice, whilst his presence on stage appears carefully studied. When the doors open, he’s already sat on the floor with his back towards the entrance, ready to captivate the audience with his measured steps and ardent speech. My overall impression though, is that his monologue doesn’t build up properly. His fierce exordium didn’t give me time to realise who he was referring to and I soon longed for a pause in order to establish the identity of the imagined interlocutors. The director seems to have underestimated the significance of pauses in a monologue; a meaningful moment of silence would have given the body language an opportunity to express torment and sorrow.
King Lear is alone in his cellar. His loving daughter Cordelia is dead, along with the kingdom’s most loyal men. Starting with Kent’s closing sentence, ‘Is this the Promised End?’, Bramwell keeps the old sovereign alive and gives him an hour to overthink his past and foresee his future.
In Bob Young’s poignant impersonation, the play is quite intense. Its ground-breaking angle will definitely appeal to the culture vultures, although it could come across as a bit obscure to the general public.
Writer and Director: Frank Bramwell
Producer: Inamoment Theatre
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.