Thursday, 15 May 2014

King Lear

Several months back, before I knew when I would be moving, I arranged with a couple of friends that we would meet up to see 'King Lear' at the National Theatre.

I don't think I would have planned to have a day trip to London 10 days after moving house, but in fact, it worked pretty well.

I got the train into London (I shall have to get used to not having a railway station within walking distance, anymore. It means you have to pay for parking) and met up with J and J on the South Bank, after an uneventful journey (unless you count meeting a Bride and Groom, in full wedding gear, getting off the tube at Waterloo, as an event!)

We enjoyed a glass of bubbly (to celebrate J and J's recent wedding, and my recent house move) and then a relaxed and enjoyable lunch, before making our way into the theatre.

We had seats up in the circle, but with an excellent view of the stage. 

King Lear is not a play that I have seen very often, although I did see a fantastic production, with Derek Jacobi in the title role, a couple of years ago, and it's perhaps inevitable that I should compare the two.

I thought that this version had some excellent moments, but I did not find it as moving as  the Jacobi production. I think partly because there was more going on - big sets, lots of extras, which detracted from the central tragedy.

Lear starts out as a Stalin-like, dictatorial figure, surrounded by soldiers, (one thing which was lost in the broadcast, which I saw with  a different friend, a little later) compared to the live performance was that  the number of  'knights' reduced during the course of the play, slipping away unobtrusively as the King crossed the stage. (There were about 25 of them to start with) 

Edmund (Sam Troughton) is suitably villainous, deeply creepy - I should be interested to see him play Iago, in future! Poor Edgar (Tom Brooke) suitably mad (and noticeably a little less naked, in the broadcast, than the live performance!) and Simon Russell Beale is excellent - an unsympathetic, but ultimately pitiable figure.

When we saw there play, there was a slight hiccough as there was a problem with the scenery, which led to an unplanned hiatus while it was fixed. It came just after Edgar fled from the unjust allegations made against him, which seemed like a natural break point, so it did not detract from the play at all!

I enjoyed seeing the play a second time as a broadcast - it allowed me to consider some of the nuances, and interestingly, the habit of the film directors to zoom in in major scenes made it, to mind, more intense - there was some loss, in the lack of background characters, but it focussed the lay more closely on the main characters, adding to the intensity. Very interesting. I'm glad I saw it in both formats!

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