Friday, 17 April 2015

REVIEW - King Lear, Rose Playhouse, Bankside


KING Lear is one of Shakespeare's greatest plays and also perhaps one of his most difficult given the themes. And to get it right it relies on a skilful actor to play the title role.
How fortunate then that The Malachites theatre company managed to get John McEnery to play him in their pared down version now on at the Rose Theatre.
In a further plus point, the Bankside theatre, which is a small wooden stage over the remains of what was the original playhouse is the perfect setting for the play.
It is cold, eerie, and atmospheric and the company makes good use of the space throughout.
The production opens with Lear dividing up his Kingdom amongst his three daughters on condition they tell him how much they love him.
Only Cordelia, the youngest and his favourite refuses to flatter him and for that she forfeits her share of the inheritance and is banished by Lear.
In dividing the kingdom among his three daughters Lear sets the stage for his own destruction, with Cordelia's two sisters, Goneril and Regan planning to get rid of their father.
And in a sub plot Gloucester's bastard son Edmund plots to get rid of his brother Edgar.
The production is a mere 100 minutes which despite the inevitable cuts manages to keep most of the plot intact.
However, there were moments when as a result of the cuts it felt a bit rushed - for example the scene where blind Gloucester and his son Edgar are on Dover cliffs. This is one of the most powerful in Shakespeare's canon but it seemed too brief and could have been more dramatic had it been staged at the back of the space by the water which cover the remains of this amazing theatre.
However, these niggles aside, it is a great production. Tight, dramatic and features a top notch cast led from the front by John McEnery as Lear.
He is full of contradiction - at once frail and showing signs of madness before switching totally to complete clarity of thought and action and raging against the elements and injustices as he sees them.
It is an utterly mesmerising performance in a fabulous production.

King Lear is on at the Rose Theatre, Park Street until April 30. Tickets cost £12. Visit or call the box office on 020 7261 9565.

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