Thursday, 26 June 2014

'King Lear' National Theatre, Olivier ****

William Shakespeare's play about the fraught relationships between fathers and daughters, ‘King Lear’ has been revived at the National Theatre, and it's cleverly considered rendition of Shakespeare's work and wonderfully directed by Sam Mendes. ‘King Lear’, originally performed and written around 1603-1606 has received such excellent casting with the likes of Simon Russell Beale and Anna Maxwell Martin. As with many of Shakespeare's scripts, we are sat in the auditorium for three hours, where we are witnessing the traumas of mental instability and the terrors that are apparent with the events of war. As well as, the performance is vastly disturbing due to the amounts of violent scenes, in particular when the Earl of Gloucester has his eyes removed by the Duke of Cornwall because of his wrong deeds towards King Lear. The audience sitting in the Olivier auditorium seemed to be extremely shocked and sickened by the realism of this ghastly scene and the use of fake blood did however look increasingly un-naturalistic which is incredibly disappointing for a National Theatre production. The combination of Shakespeare's original language interconnected with the contemporary dictatorial environment appeared to work successfully with one another as King Lear has been stereotyped as a grumpy, old fashioned father, who doesn't appreciate his youngest daughter, Cordelia’s strength by refusing to marry, which aggravates him to the point where she is disowned and exiled. The performances by the company of ‘King Lear’ were very much impressive. Simon Russell Beale portrays the central protagonist, King Lear to a sublime standard. The scene in which Lear has been mentally scarred by his daughters’ dismissal suggests that Russell Beale remains still a master of his craft. Kate Fleetwood, Olivia Vinall and Anna Maxwell Martin were exceptional as Lear’s three daughters who convey the brutality of women detesting the personality of their father to a magnificent style of characterisation. Stephen Boxer’s performance as visually impaired Gloucester is outstanding and the realism of this impairment was particularly eye-catching. Sam Mendes’ direction here is of a good standard as he has been able to respond with Shakespeare's original dialogue and enabling it to incorporate a contemporary environment left one thinking very positively. Anthony Ward’s designs encapsulates the brutality of a country at war with one another and fully forces us to think about the traumas that are stigmatised with warzone atmospheres and that family life can be one in itself.  The experience was enjoyable and pleasant one.

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