What’s this? Me thinking I’m a theatre critic? How dare I? Well, of course, this isn’t really a critical review merely a comment on my feelings after seeing ‘King Lear’ at the West Yorkshire Playhouse last evening.
23 September 2011 to 22 October 2011
King Lear abdicates the British throne, to divide his kingdom among his three daughters in proportion to their professed love of him. When Cordelia, his youngest and favourite daughter, refuses to flatter her father; she is disinherited and banished. King Lear, with its intense exploration of kinship, loyalty, old-age and madness is widely held as the greatest of Shakespeare’s tragedies; to some, it is the greatest play ever written. Award-winning stage, film and television actor Tim Pigott-Smith will perform the title role, directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director Ian Brown.”
Picture and Resumé from The West Yorkshire Playhouse website.
Over 25 years ago (is it really that long?) a dear friend, Mrs Wright, Snr., asked if I’d like to join her and subscribe to a season of plays at The Leeds Playhouse (as it was then). Of course, I did, and we have never looked back! Through the births of our children and various other upheavals we’ve stuck with our commitment and missed very few plays. In 1990 the old Leeds Playhouse was replaced by the West Yorkshire Playhouse and the ticketing became more complicated but we just stuck with our original plan and booked the longer running plays.
Yesterday evening we attended the last but one evening performances of King Lear. I don’t know whether this play will move to other theatres or even to The West End but it was a magnificent production and if you get the chance and enjoy Shakespeare – go see it! Tim Pigott-Smith (of ‘The Jewel in the Crown’ fame) stars in the title role. The final performance at Leeds is halfway through as I type.
The play opens strongly in reds and blacks and greys and there is no doubt who is in power and what form that power takes – it is King Lear and the power is absolute! Fast forward towards the end of the play and we see a desolate, senile and bereft Lear cradling his dead daughter Cordelia and we feel as exhausted, as surely the actors must do, with tragedy of it all.
Cordelia is played by Olivia Morgan. It’s her very first professional stage debut. How good is that?! To me it showed but was all the better for the ‘naivety’ – is that the right word? I think I read somewhere that Cordelia has just 120 lines but she’s pivotal to the play.
Photo : James Garnon [Mercutio] in the Globe’s 2004 Romeo and Juliet ( globe-education.org )
All evening I couldn’t get out of my mind of whom James Garnon (Edmund) reminded me. I checked the programme when I got home, found that he performed in Howard Brenton’s ‘Anne Boleyn’ at Shakespeare’s Globe which I saw in the summer and realised straightaway that he was James I. He is definitely one to watch.