REVIEW: King Lear starring David Hayman – Citizen’s Theatre Glasgow 10th May 2012

“I am a man, More sinn’d against than sinning”

“The ageing King decides to step down from the throne and divide his estate between his three daughters. Deceived by false promises and rejecting his one faithful daughter, Lear’s former kingdom spirals into chaos as he is driven to madness by the cruel treatment of his own family.”

This intense exploration of the human condition is the focal point of Artistic Director Dominic Hill’s inaugural season. Celebrated Glasgow actor David Hayman, returns to the Citizens in the title role, 33 years after his last appearance here. He is joined by a cast of familiar faces including; George Costigan (Calendar Girls, Shirley Valentine & Rita Sue and Bob Too) as Gloucester: Paul Higgins (The Thick of It) as Kent and Cal Macaninch (Downton Abbey & Wild at Heart) as Cornwall.

After a 33 year absence from his “creative home” David Hayman returns to The Citizen’s Theatre and delivers a truly sublime performance: a performance that will doubtlessly be remembered for many years.

He begins this theatrical tour de force by striding imperiously across the stage, Cossack hat on head, to dispense his kingdom with arrogant zeal amongst his three daughters and then proceeds to take us on a journey which sees him end as a physically shrunken, anguished, remorseful shell of a man.

In the wake of Hayman’s truly inspiring performance it would be easy to overlook the rest of the cast. However, from George Costigan’s heart-breaking turn as Gloucester (seen below with Hayman),

Kieran Hill as the double crossing Edmund (below centre),

to Paul Higgins’ strong performance as the loyal Kent (below left), they more than hold their own.

This is a re-imagined Lear, placed smack-bang in our recession-hit times.

Olivier award winner Tom Piper, who designed the set, recently worked on Kevin Spacey & Sam Mendes’ Richard III for the Old Vic, (which I had the privilege to see), and the design is similar in many ways. It evokes the same bleak historical-modernist feeling. Lighting design is by Ben Ormerod.

Now when I heard that an original soundscape, performed live on custom-made instruments, was being created for the production my heart sank, However, Paddy Cuneen has actually enhanced the performance with a series of atmospheric and unobtrusive sounds.

There were a few downsides, Ewan Donald as Edgar and Shauna MacDonald as Regan both had appalling diction especially Donald who at times was utterly unintelligible, even from the third row. However this is a King Lear that would stand up against anything you could possibly see at the Globe or the RSC and the queues around the block for tickets (as seen below) show what an appetite we have here in Scotland for Shakespeare. Artistic directors take note.

all pictures from Citizens Theatre and Citizens Theatre Flickr

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