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King Lear @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Published by: Yvonne Delahaye on 19th Aug 2013 | View all blogs by Yvonne Delahaye

The great thing about being a reviewer at The Waterside, is that you get the chance to see a variety of theatre shows.  A few weeks ago I saw Mickey’s Rockin’ Roadshow and a few days ago Shakespeare’s King Lear and you can’t get much more diverse than that can you?  This is the touring production from London’s prestigious Globe Theatre, founded by American actor and director Sam Wanamaker which opened in 1997, as a modern reconstruction of the original theatre on the original site.

Touring theatre was in Shakespeare’s blood and after a 400-year break, The Globe resurrected this tradition in the summer of 2007, with a touring production of Romeo and Juliet.  This current production of King Lear has toured 18 venues in the UK, as well as Turkey, Romania, Austria, Germany and Denmark, with a stop off at The Globe Theatre in May.  The production uses an Elizabethan style booth stage, making it easy to fit into a range of theatre sizes.

 It's a complex story, but basically old King Lear proposes to give up his crown and divides his kingdom between his three daughters - but his rash generosity is cruelly repaid. Lear discovers too late the falsity of the values by which he has lived and is ultimately plunged into despair and madness. Its tempestuous poetry shot through with moments of humour and heart-rending simplicity, King Lear is a profound exploration of the human condition in all its extremes and complexity.

At the top of the show we saw dancing, singing and the cast playing instruments as they interacted with the audience.  It seemed as if we were about to watch a panto, such was the jollity of this opening.  In fact, this play does have some similarities to Cinderella, with the 2 wicked sisters ostracising their sincere sister and manipulating their father into believing how much they love him. 

That’s probably where the similarity ends though, as these 2 women are filled with hatred, plotting against one another, carrying out  heinous acts of cruelty and betraying their loved ones.  The twists and turns and ultimate tragedies almost made TV’s The White Queen seem like a tale of everyday family life!

With the exception of Lear himself, the 8 strong cast play several roles and slide effortlessly from royalty to servants, making it seem as if there is a huge cast.  The production is very fast-paced and energetic, keeping us engaged in what is quite a complicated plot.

Directed by Bill Buckhurst, the title role is played by Joseph Marcell, best known as Geoffrey in the television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and last at the Globe in the 2011 production of Much Ado About Nothing.  It’s an exceptionally strong cast of superb ensemble acting, but I found Oliver Book playing the multiple roles of Edmund/King of France and Oswald, riveting to watch.  He has such energy, commitment and power, I’m sure he’s an actor we’ll soon be seeing as the next Brit to make it big in Hollywood.

This was the final leg of the tour, but check out for details of forthcoming productions. 

Judging by the almost full theatre in Aylesbury, there’s still a huge demand to see The Bard’s works and I look forward to the next Globe tour.

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 4 years ago
    Thanks, Yvonne. Long live the classics!
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