You may think you know him, the tragedy of a doddering old man whose senses are beginning to leave him, and whose children use his failing powers to take what is his in the name of protecting him. It must have been as common an occurrence in Shakespeare’s day as it sometimes seems to be today. To hear the arguments of King Lear’s daughters Goneril (Maev Beaty) and Regan (Lisa Repo-Martell) it only makes sense to do so. Seen through the filter of his still sound mind in its lucid moments, it is betrayal that he calls out and confronts with all the passion his soul can muster. In Colm Feore’s King Lear, that is a lot of passion, and his early face-to-face confrontations with his daughters it spills out with volcanic fury, and is met with the same.
There are other betrayals—son against father, brother against brother, wife against husband—and they are played out with equal, unbridled passion, to their ultimate Shakespearean tragic and ruthlessly bloody end. But this performance is Lear as you’ve never seen it. Stratford Festival has filmed the play live in their great theater in Ontario, Canada. Those in the audience are watching and responding to the performance, but they see it only from a distance.
This film brings us into the play in a way that watching it on stage can never do. The miracle of modern film brings the action, the faces, the tears of sorrow right to your own eyes. At its most beautiful moments—Cordelia reunited with her father, Lear comforting the blinded Gloucester—we the audience are moved to tears ourselves. At its most horrid—slash of the knife to the eyes, the brutal deaths by blade—we recoil in fear. Mercifully some of the deaths at the end of the play occur offstage. Lest anyone think the Bard was unusually bloodthirsty in his depictions of eye-gouging and murder, one has only to look to the recently discovered, violently mutilated remains of another medieval monarch, Richard III.
The performances are of the highest caliber, and we view them with the greatest clarity in detail, lighting, and sound. The one-night showing at the Lark is over now, but this is one version of King Lear you can see if it comes again to an art-house theater near you, or by renting a DVD to watch at home. It casts a whole new light on a play you may have thought you already knew. Directed by Antoni Cimolino.
Look for two more of Shakespeare’s finest—King John and Anthony and Cleopatra—coming later this year to the Lark. Mark these dates on your calendar: April 8 and May 21, 2015. Don’t miss them.
If you haven’t already been to the Lark theater in Larkspur, give yourself plenty of time. It’s not easy to find, but believe me, if this is your only chance to see Shakespeare this close and personal, it will be well worth the effort.
Lark Theater: 549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur CA 415-924-5111
Review by David Hirzel
Review by David Hirzel link