In a city that boasts the Globe Theatre and any number of high-profile Shakespearean productions, it’s wonderful that some of the best Shakespeare London has to offer is taking place in the back of a pub near Catford.
The Shakespearean tragedy King Lear sees the ageing king retiring from ruling. Lear aims to divide his realm between his three daughters, the scheming and power-hungry Regan and Goneril, and good, honest, favoured daughter, Cordelia. His plan is to give the land out based on the declarations of love from his daughters – but while Regan and Goneril lie their way through over-the-top professions of love, Cordelia refuses to engage in the game, and instead professes a more subtle – yet honest – love. She is disowned by her father, and so the power games begin as the lives of those involved begin to crumble and fall in a world of betrayal, madness, and death.
It’s an excellent production. The cast of King Lear are absolutely stunning. They are wonderful across the board, none more so that the phenomenal Evangeline Beaven’s Ada. Her delivery is passionate, engaging – and the audience hang on her every word. The concept of Ada is another wonderful stroke of genius in this production; we’ve swapped a male Edmund for a female Ada and it adds a delightful layer of depth to the production. Jess Kinsey is stoic and captivating as Cordelia and outstanding as the fool – her movements around the stage are a dream, and her energetic delivery of lines is flawless. Alan Booty’s descent into madness is worth the trip to South East London alone, and Daniel McCaully goes through the various stages of Edgar’s life wonderfully. His range through the difference scenes is tremendous and he delivers in every one.
The staging is minimal to the point of non-existence – a smart decision, allowing for no distractions from the superb cast. A slightly elevated stage rolls around, and is particularly clever in a portion where cliffs are needed – but the main indication of a change of ‘scenery’ is the location being scrawled in chalk on the back wall. This seems odd at first, but as the scenes shift, and we occasionally revisit locations, this becomes a brilliant word map of where we’ve been and where we end up.
One of the best things about the production is that element of clever approaches and smart decisions. For a brutal, tragic play, you’d expect gore – but it’s not the case. The blinding scene of Gloucester is a bit-gag worthy, but oh, is it smart.
There are few nits to pick in this production, as it’s such a stellar cast, and not a single word is missed in the delivery of this epic piece – but for such a smart, talented piece, the fight scenes don’t seem to fit in the same tone and style as the rest of the show. The choreographed, slow motion opening is good – but then it descends into a slightly farcical rough and tumble with masked assailants. For a show that stuns in it’s minimalism, you wonder if this could have been done in a more considered way.
This is Shakespeare just how it should be; a clear, concise, focus on the lines and an excellent delivery from a stellar cast. King Lear is undoubtedly tragic, but this production is anything but.
Written by: William Shakespeare
Directed by: James Eley
Produced by: Yard Players
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: https://brockleyjack.co.uk/jackstudio-entry/king-lear/#toggle-id-2
Booking Until: 30 March 2019