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August 13, 2007 | by  | in Theatre |
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King Lear

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by David Lawrence
Te Whaea, August 1 – 5

Wellington director David Lawrence mounts one of the most difficult plays of all time, with a monumental cast and from what I hear, a lot of monumental obstacles along the way.

The take is a classic, ageless one – the costumes appear timeless, with the colour schemes linking the families together and the lighting (Joshua Judkins) is simple, evoking nature’s disharmony, helped along by Walter Plinge’s excellent soundscape. However, it’s filled with a few of the quirky touches we’ve come to expect of the Bacchanals such as the fantastic, utterly theatrical opening (which I won’t ruin as I hope and pray this production comes back to Wellington), the Earl of Kent (Malcolm Murray) disguising himself as a kiwi type farmer, and The Beatles playing as the show ends.

The ensemble work together well, and individually, there are some outstanding performances. Erin Banks as Cordelia and The Fool is particularly good, her performance clearly making the link between the knowledge that both The Fool and Cordelia possess and Lear does not, which is ultimately his downfall. Mick Rose makes for an earthy Lear, and brought shivers as he gave a guttural scream for his dead Cordelia.

Regan (Jacqueline Nairn) and The Duke of Cornwall (Alistair Browning) are deliciously evil, and I loved the Blasted / Sarah Kane-esque reference as Regan tears out Gloucester (Bruce Phillips)‘s eyeball with her teeth. Yum. Bacchanals staple Alex Greig is in fine form as evil bastard (literally) Edmund.

However, the show lacks what I’ve come to know as the usual Bacchanals take on Shakespeare – quick scenes, sped up (yet enunciated) language and bursting with energy. The opening night performance seemed to lack some pace, which I can only assume is because they’ve been rehearsing with their Lear (Mick Rose) for only two weeks (due to their original Lear being unable to perform). However, I’m sure the production will get an outstanding reception in Dunedin and let’s hope Circa / Downstage wake up and give it a spot.

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About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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