xBard on the Beach and Theatre Calgary
King Lear by William Shakespeare

Dates and Venue June 18 - September 20, 2015 at 7.30pm (Sat & Sun matinees at 2pm) | BMO Mainstage, Vanier Park

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Shakespeare's tragedies have always been cruel and villainous. British monarchs, if they're not normal, are either madmen, as in the case of King Lear, or tyrants like Macbeth, or both. Theatre Calgary's Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum does a reprise of this tragedy in Vancouver after having directed and presented it in Calgary just three months ago, with almost the same cast: King Lear (Benedict Campbell), Goneril (Colleen Wheeler), Regan (Jennifer Lines) and Cordelia (Andrea Rankin), Edmund (Michael Blake), Earl of Gloucester (David Marr), and Fool (Scott Bellis).

Campbell's experience as a Shakesperean actor for so many years makes him emoting his lines with ease, to the extent that he has a playful way of saying his lines. He has a powerful voice but sometimes projects too vigorously for a monarch in his eighties, (in his line "four score and upwards"). In Michael Blake's Edmund, I felt there was a lack of the Iago-like character, the scheming, evil and villainous persona. The three sisters Goneril (Colleen Wheeler), Regan (Jennifer Lines) and Cordelia (Andrea Rankin) lacked substance. These are three fabulous actors, but perhaps the lines written by Shakespeare for these women didn't have the chutzpah to make them stand out.

There's a warning in this play, with regard to violence, and it's the scene where David Marr’s Earl of Gloucester suffers a gory act of violence, as his eyes are plucked out. I noticed some members of the audience feeling squeamish during this scene. Finally, Scott Bellis' Fool was a bit corny, but when you're limited to lines that may not sound funny today, what can you do?.

The set by Pam Johnson is simple: a wooden frame with a platform and stairs. The original music and sound effects by Dave Pierce vibed well with Gerald King's lighting design. I liked the thunder and lightning scenes, and the use of the smoke machine to create fog.

Shakesperean plays have been known to last more than three hours, as this one did. It started at 7:30 and ended, with curtain call, around 10:45. In Shakespeare's time, this Five-Act play would probably have lasted five hours, with an intermission after every act. So consider yourself still lucky to come for 3.5 hrs instead of 5 when you come and see the play.

© 2015 Ed Farolan