REVIEW: King Lear, Donmar Theatre Production, King’s Theatre Glasgow starring Derek Jacobi 12th March 2011

An ageing monarch. A kingdom divided. A child’s love rejected. As Lear’s world descends into chaos, all that he once believed is brought into question. One of the greatest works in western literature, King Lear explores the very nature of human existence: love and duty, power and loss, good and evil.

It is a Lear without the hystrionics and wailing and gnashing of teeth and all the better for it. It was a beautifully measured performance from almost all. The absence of hamming meant that the Shakespearean text, which can be hard to conceive, was beautifully conveyed.

 The supporting cast including Gina McKee (Goneril, above right), (below from top) Tom Beard (Duke of Albany), Michael Hadley (Earl of Kent), Paul Jesson (Gloucester) and Gwilym Lee (Edgar) were especially adept, each delivering just the right amount of emotion for each role.

 

 The white-washed planking set meant that all attention was focussed on the performance and was particularly effective in the storm scene where Jacobi delivers the ‘Blow winds and crack your cheeks’ speech as a hushed whisper making it all the more spellbinding. The King’s descent into madness is heart  wrenching and his end is as dignified and graceful as the rest of the performance. I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this before it heads to Broadway: “trailing hosannas in its wake.”

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