Shakespeare's King Lear

Dates and Venue 11 June 26 September 2008 @ 8pm | Bard on the Beach Mainstage Tent, Vanier Park

Director James Fagan Tait Music Joelysa Pankanea Fight Director Nicholas Harrison Stage and Scenery Design David Roberts Lighting Designer Gerald King Costume Designer Mara Gottler Stage Manager Stephen Courtney

Reviewer Jane Penistan

“Every inch a king.” Christopher Gaze at the Bard on the Beach opening night of King Lear was every inch a king. James Fagan Tait directed a spectacular production of the tragedy. Accompanied by onstage live music, King Lear is set in “the-not-too-distant future.” Will those who are young and live to see this future, have compassion and understanding, rather than dissimulation, avarice, and love of power?

Entering in a wheelchair, and presented with a birthday cake, the king announces his abdication and the division of his kingdom among his three daughters and their husbands. Yet he is not ready to relinquish either his authority or his accustomed way of life. The responsibility of a ruler is what he wishes to retire from. But retirement is not the pleasurable state he had envisaged.

Lear’s gradual disintegration and reconciliation is admirably managed by Gaze, whose delivery of many of the well-known speeches are spoken with elegant timing, deep feeling, and no histrionics.

All three daughters present well defined characters, Goneril (Lois Anderson) and Regan (Tiffany Lindall- Knight) becoming more and more inhuman in their ambition, greed, and ruthlessness, while Cordelia (Melissa Poll) has great dignity and warm sincerity in her growing maturity.

Transforming the fool into a nurse is a brave gesture and one that for the most part works exceptionally well in the capable, sensitive, and beautifully timed performance of Patti Allan. The stalwart and loyal Duke of Kent of Gerry Mackay is all that could be desired.

Some of the music becomes distracting and detracts from the performance by inappropriate interruption, and while the singing of the soloists and ensemble is tuneful and well performed it adds little to the scenes.

Mara Gottler’s costumes are a great addition to the spectacle, with Goneril and Regan in stylish clothes and stiletto heels.

This is a King Lear of truly regal calibre. This brave, daring, and intellectually developed production is one not to be missed. We will not see its like again.

© 2008 Jane Penistan