Friday, 17 April 2015

King Lear - Northern Broadsides

I saw this production at a matinee at the Theatre Royal in Bath. For perhaps two minutes at the very start I was worried that it was going to be stiff and somehow not work.

What a fool I was. I ought to have trusted the company, under the direction of Jonathan Miller. After all, the last play I saw directed by Miller - Hamlet at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol - was astonishingly good. His approach on that occasion had been to put the script at the centre of everything. He did not, as is so common these days, try to update the drama to some other time or place, to drag in current issues or to make it about some preoccupation of his own. He listened to the words.

The same was true of this production. The words were thought about, each phrase had been examined by each actor. The play was the thing.

For some reason, despite the fact that there were many, many things revealed to me that I had never noticed in the text before, now, some weeks later, the only one I can remember off the top of my head is the way that Barrie Rutter, towards the end of the play, says to Cordelia, "Bear with me". Suddenly, the phrase meant not the usual being put on hold cliche. Lear was asking Cordelia to help to bear his weary weight.

The Northern Broadsides cast were splendid. If you get a chance - the production is touring all over the place at the moment, Yorkshire, Scarborough, the Rose, Kingston, various other places - go. It is a really astonishingly beautiful production of King Lear and I wouldn't have missed it.

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