EFR - Reviews of King Lear

King Lear

Sun 12th – Sat 18th August 2012

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Mel Melville

at 10:00 on 14th Aug 2012

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Knowing next to nothing about 'King Lear' but loving the works of Shakespeare, I had high hopes for this production. Tense music plays as the audience enter the theatre and on stage is King Lear himself and the Fool. The Fool, played by (Ellie Hepworth), shakes in the corner of the stage, looking absolutely crazy with very strange contacts to emphasis the insanity of her image. Bitterness prevails through the powerful opening scene as all the characters are clearly introduced. For someone that has never read 'King Lear', I became slightly lost from here on in. Many of the scene changes appear clumsy and there are far too many of them, leading me to believe that it could work better if everyone surrounded the stage throughout the production. It was clear that the cast cared very much about the nitty-gritty and sometimes seemed far too caught up in it and less involved with developing their characters.

I spent a lot of time staring into the backs of actors but this is mainly due to the set up of the theatre, with the audience located at the sides as well as the front. Edmund (Lawrence Dixon) in particular has an interesting style of acting. His Shakespearean verse is delivered confidently and naturally in a chav-like gangster-with-swagger fashion which, although it is intriguing and a pleasure to watch, I’m not entirely convinced fits in with the rest of the actors.

Music is played at the very moment you would want it to be and it turns good scenes into epic scenes. In particular, the special soundtrack and lighting used when the Fool is on stage is highly effective, and the storm is represented by flashing lights. Much of the stage fighting was well under par, but ‘blood’ is believably thrown around the stage. There are moments of extreme hysteria in this play complemented by strong acting but I was all too lost in the plot to really appreciate this. King Lear (James Davies) portrays his despair well and seems to have developed a drug addiction that doesn’t feature in Shakespeare’s work. If you have not already seen or studied the play then I suggest that you read a synopsis before you go. I was confused by a plot that I didn’t already know and I feel as if the acting sometimes baffled me further. All things considered, it’s a bit too heavy for a 12:15 production.

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Steve Hartill

at 10:05 on 14th Aug 2012

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'King Lear' is certainly one of the harder Shakespeare plays to put on a stage, and certainly a hard one to modernise, and this group gives it a valiant try. The play itself is a confusing one, with a wide selection of characters, each with their own motivations and scheming against the eponymous monarch Lear (James Davies). Even though I am familiar with the play, it is a struggle to keep up with the rush through all of the different politics going on within the court: the production certainly feels like it should have had more time to fully develop the characters and the tensions between them.

Having said that, the actors are talented: Lear’s fall from power is emotional, and the two evil sisters, Goneril (Segelone Scheuer) and Regan (Felicity Box) are cunning and manipulative, with their own sinister sibling rivalry bubbling under the majority of the plot.

The Fool (Ellie Hepworth) is also impressive, as the production seems to have decided to make the character only a figment of Lear’s imagination, and the stage shows this well by a blue light effect and the fact that the other actors freeze on stage when the Fool is speaking. Edmund (Lawrence Dixon) is also well-acted, as the villain throughout in the background, speeding events in the play towards their bloody conclusion. However, Edgar (Nick McAndrew) is strangely characterised, into a coward who Edmund easily leads on in his plans.

The technicalities of the stage are good, with different lighting cues and the use of torn Union Jacks to decorate the stage and the auditorium. There is also an impressive score in the production that features throughout, but there are some technical problems, such as actors stumbling over their lines or some attempting entrances before their scene in the play. There is a gratuitous amount of stage blood, as well as stage fighting, and the gory scene of Gloucester having his eyes put out is portrayed well, with the use of a stage knife. This all shows the violence of the play but does at point make it seem amateurish and drag on.

In conclusion, the production certainly shows the talent of the group, but they struggle to get past the difficulties of staging 'King Lear'.

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