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Songs of Lear by Song of the Goat Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 22nd Feb 2015 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

Photo credit: Song of the Goat Theatre

 Is my heart too large for you?

Song of the Goat Theatre are an internationally acclaimed Polish company who create contemporary performance based on ancient text, music, dance and song. They return to Battersea Arts Centre with the Fringe First Award winning Songs of Lear for only a few days, following sell-out performances of Return to the Voice in 2014.

The company does not perform King Lear in the traditional way but distills the energies and rhythms in Shakespeare's tragedy and brings them to life. Director Grzegorz Bral uses key scenes from the play to create a story out of gestures, words and music: "Each song is a starting point for another ‘dramatic poem’ where the music becomes characters, relationships and events." Inspired by a Kandinsky exhibition that he saw in London, Bral paints a musical landscape of the tragedy guided by the principles of inspiration, improvisation and structure. He believes that one should not show too much in a performance, only provoke imagination.

The actors are sitting in a semi-circle, dressed in formal black clothes. Only the actor playing King Lear is wearing a coat. The production is divided into 12 episodes that build on each other, introduced and conducted by the director who remains on stage throughout the performance. The show begins with the episode "First Paradiso Number One" when the world is still in order. But then, in episode two, rumours fly that the King is going to resign and the mood changes. The third episode shows King Lear expecting his daughters to express their love for him and the tragedy commences.

The musical variety of this performance is astonishing. The actors sing as a chorus, imitate musical instruments or emit sounds that transfer their emotions directly to the audience. The angelic hymns and the strong chorus pieces reminded me of the Carmina Burana but this is only one element of the performance. Soloists sing in Latin, Polish or English and recite lines from the play in English at crucial points. I was especially impressed by Cordelia's plea to her father, one of the most powerful scenes of the evening.

Grzegorz Bral has used the essence of the play and transformed it into a painting of sound and movement that touches us deep down inside. Song of the Goat have found the emotional music of King Lear.

By Carolin Kopplin


Until 22nd February 2015

Battersea Arts Centre

Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TN

More information:

Running time: 75 minutes

Presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute in London. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Thanks, Carolin. Sounds like powerful stuff.
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