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A CurtainUp London Review
It is Hicks' night as he disinherits his youngest daughter Cordelia (Samantha Young) only to realise later, in between insanity, his terrible and life changing mistake. The storm scene is truly electrifying as Hicks stands on a bare platform in a downpour of rain. Wearing a crown of grasses and reeds, with great affection Lear cradles the blind Gloucester, both men sharing the bond of having been mistaken in their offspring. Kelly Hunter is a poisonous and acidic, sexually predatory Goneril and the beautiful Katy Stephens a dangerous Regan.
This is the first time I was aware of the parade of barons who are the landowners and lords of Lear's divided kingdom. The design has a curiosity with its melange for the dukes of the realm of medieval dress with wolf skins cloaks and cross gartered Chaucerian trousers and the uniforms for warfare, battle dress, helmets of the First World War. What point can the designer be making other than to say that the conflicts in Lear are similar spread over 1000 years? Essentially the nature of warfare changes after the First World War to one of mass destruction where battles are fought in the air as well as by sea and by land based armies. The set too reflects the breakdown of a kingdom with its rusted ironwork backdrop shattering and high above the cracked dirty panes of glass of a disused building.
Sophie Russell has taken over the role of the Fool from departing Kathryn Hunter and she is a pleasant and kind diversion for the monarch. Darrell d'Silva is that perfect gentleman the Duke of Kent and Geoffrey Freshwater heart rending as the cruelly blinded Duke of Gloucester. Charles Aitken masquerading in the most inexplicable of Shakespeare's characters, Poor Tom, finds his father and cares for him in a disguise that almost bares all to the sighted. Fresh faced Tunji Kasim as the bastard brother Edgar doesn't quite have the malice of the part until his later scenes. The skirmish with huge broadswords between the brothers is genuinely exciting. John Mackay again is cast as a decent man, here the Duke of Albany, married to Goneril but distancing himself from her and her lover Edgar.
Despite his venomous cursing of his daughter Goneril's fertility and so too what would have been his own grandchildren, Hicks' Lear has a flawed humanity which we all can relate to.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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