King Lear

Presented by Northern Broadsides
Liverpool Playhouse
28 April - 2 May 2015

Review by Colin Serjent

I have attended several stage versions of King Lear over the years, including at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1979, when it was part of my A Level English Lit syllabus, but this is one of the most underwhelming I have seen

Barrie Rutter, in the title role, possesses little charisma as the man made demented by the appalling and cruel behaviour of two of his daughters.

But the biggest failing, in this abbreviated version by Jonathan Miller - the eighth time he has directed Lear, and I would humbly suggest the last - is the limited stage presence afforded the Fool (a white faced clown-like Fine Time Fontayne, a veteran of Northern Broadsides). The Fool is an integral part of the play, being an alter ego of Lear. In this regard the fool is the wise man.

The scene where Cornwall gouges out both eyes of Gloucester never loses its horror. This time you don't actually see the barbarous act but hear the hellish screams of Gloucester while bathed in dry ice and back lighting.

The props are minimalist to the extreme but that is no bad thing. They comprise several spotlights and a football goal-like structure of two metal posts topped by a metal bar. This structure remains on stage throughout the performance.

What should be equally dramatic and heartrending is Lear lamenting the death of his beloved Cordelia while holding her limp body. There was little emotional stirring in my soul when this was enacted, perhaps symbolishing the wan nature of this production.

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