King Lear

Thu 22nd March 2012

reviews

Gaby Oliva

at 10:29 on 23rd Mar 2012

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On my entrance to St. Paul’s church the play had already begun; you could literally breathe in the eeriness as the cast stood circled in candle light, chanting what I can only guess to have been Latin hymns.

Having a play put on in a church is risky business, considering the tedious acoustics, though this location still proved to be fantastic. The directors took full advantage of the church aisles, creating dramatic entrances as the actors stormed and panted through, drawing the audience even closer into the action in this intimate space. A consistently powerful set up was employed by constantly creating a visual triangle in the positioning of the three sisters - from right at the beginning where Cordelia’s isolation in the aisle was further exaggerated by her standing parallel against Goneril and Regan at the altar, to the end, where the sisters’ deaths, which usually happen offstage, were put right under our noses, giving the audience that good old dose of closure.

Miriam Battye had the misleading bit part of Cordelia, as she is offstage for most of the play. However, she performed the role with what seemed like a reservoir of emotions; even when the focus of the scene was away from Cordelia, Miriam kept faithful to her role - I saw those few quiet tears inch and glisten in the dim light.

Ollie Gyani’s private soliloquies as Edmund were superb; his sinister intentions were flaunted by accompaniment of dark low piano tones, but he also brought humour though the unforgivably evil act of placing a gnawed apple back in the fruit bowl!

The cast persistently held character between acts and set changes. Although it increased my hunger, the platter of food was a great prop or snack for almost every performer; even the faithful servants could be seen nibbling a baguette. However, the tablecloth did cruelly trap and steal the footing of a few.

To name the star of the show must be to mention the Fool, Tash Dummelow, who would give the mad hatter a run for his money, with her sudden leap from under the table and her symbolic swappings of white and black hats. She delivered her puns with ‘more than two tens to a score’! The interaction between the Fool and the King (Thomas Gilbert), comically nudging each other, made it hard to believe that they were not conjoined twins. Thomas Gilbert was dedicated to the role, turning as red as a tomato at times from rage. He had good diction, and with his back to us, his epic yells echoed against the fresco on the back wall, putting us all into a frenzied state.

Another character ridiculously loses his mind - the part of Edgar became backbreakingly difficult, with Harrison Clark crawling around, mud covered, giving some loose attempts to switch to a country accent when transitioning into the character of Tom o’Bedlam. Harrison threw the audience in at the deep end by launching Act 2 with the extinguishing of candles. The acts became more intense as the actors came closer and closer to the audience. A high point of hysteria arrived with the brilliant eye extraction scene; fake bloody eyes stained the actors’ hands red with the smell of mortality. Regan - Imogen Comrie - proved herself to be a true menace with her cold delivery of ‘let him smell his way to dover’. The fight scenes prompted gasps and I felt genuine concern for Theo Scholefield, as he looked like he took a brave punch. Though it was amusing, I didn’t feel the gymnastic wrestling from Edgar was realistic.

Overall I must conclude that this was a brilliantly crazy production, not forgetting Rosie Joly as Goneril, who owned the role fiercely! My few complaints lie in having a sore bum from sitting on the wood, and I would recommend a seat at the front - unless you wish the acoustics to bewilder you into more madness.

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