First of all I would like to say that the Swan theatre in Stratford was excellent. The three levels were used excellently, people were walking on all the three levels, arguing with each other, and making announcements, people were talking from the different floors and moving on all the different levels, but somehow through some great timing it never became confusing, it was a feature that could have confused the audience but it was executed well. There were hundreds of lights, and props were used well even if there were only really a few tables, chairs and a bathtub and a curtain, the actors were dancing on the tables and later the chairs were used as obstacles to show the chaos and looked a lot dirtier to emphasise the anarchy of the second half of the play, the bathtub was used for Poor Tom (Edgar) to hide in.
The stage was right in front of the audience, so you felt like you were right in the heart of the action and sometimes you were. Now I didn’t really know what to think when I came to this play I had seen one Shakespearean production before and it wasn’t that impressive but this changed all that. The actors and actresses were brilliant, but the only major fault was the fact that King Lear was young and if I am being really picky he was of a different ethnic background to his daughters.
The actor who played King Lear played it with great power and strength he showed that he was a King but he played the insanity excellently. The best actresses were the ones that played Reagan and Goneril. They both played the role powerfully and convinced me that they were evil.
The role of Edgar was acted perfectly. He changed his voice when he was talking to his father the Duke of Gloucester, he moved differently when he changed role, he put on make up, acted a little bit insane when he was poor Tom and changed his acting when he put on a mask when he fought his half brother Edmund.
The most comic scene was the scene where the fool pretended to be the Kings puppet this was great comedy. He had childish actions which were very slapstick with sexual undertones. He pretended to masturbate this is to show Lear’s lack of respect for Goneril. There was also a whipping scene where I got the pleasure of seeing an overweight man’s red behind. If the director was trying to make the play sickening he succeeded. Overall the actors and actresses blended comedy and tragedy which made the play satisfying to watch.
Possibly the most violent scene in Shakespeare (in my opinion the most violent scene) is the eye gouging scene where the Duke of Gloucester gets his eyes ripped out. There was screaming, sound effects and lighting which portrayed the agony of torture well. There was fake blood, a fake eye (I hope) rolling across the stage. The lighting got darker and darker and the interval came. It set the mood for the depressingly tragic second half.
The costumes were tuxedos and ball gowns which are still worn today at formal parties. After the interval the clothes were torn and dirtier which emphasised the distress of the latter parts of the play. The stage had lots of props (I explained earlier in this article how the tables and chairs were used) thrown over it, smoke effects used, overall this was very dark and completely suited the mood of the play (which I thought was excellent). Gloucester had black make up over his eyes there was excellent choreography he looked like he was uneasy but still seemed in control of the situation even though he couldn’t see. Some people even thought he was blind.
Now being an action fan I’ll have to mention the excellent sword fight scene between Edmund and his masked half brother Edgar. The clashes were perfectly connected and the swords were nearly thrown away, when they collided. This added to the reality of the situation and added to the audience interaction this clearly scared them. The storm scene was excellent, it had great sound effects, a mad black man running around (even though he was supposed to be sixty), a sheet shaken around and the lighting was excellent, one person said it terrified him.
After The Earl of Kent (excellently portrayed by Steven Robertson) fights with Goneril’s Husband and is put in the stocks (but no one realises he is the Earl of Kent because he is in disguise). Lear says that he measures his personal worth in terms of his possessions. “Reason not the need! Our basest beggars are in the poorest things superfluous. Allow not nature more than nature needs, Man’s life is cheap as beast’s.”
In this production he ignores his daughter and walks around thinking of his possessions.
Possibly the best scene is when Edmund shows an incriminating letter to Regan’s husband and pretends to be uncertain about whether his father is a traitor. “True or not,” is the cynical reply, “it hath made thee Earl of Gloucester.” They then use a torture method on Gloucester by cutting out his eyes, the Duke of Cornwall dies in this seen, but excellently in this production the lights dim as the loudness of Gloucester’s screams increases.
The sword scene happens after Gloucester is told in his last moments, that Poor Tom is Edgar. Edgar defeats Edmund in a duel, the brothers forgive each other, and Edmund’s last act is an attempt to do good “despite my own [evil] nature.” He calls — too late — for Lear’s and Cordelia’s lives to be spared. We are told that Reagan and Goneril are dead. Lear carries Cordelia’s body and cries, and distracts everyone before dying of a broken heart. The final line of the play is spoken by Edgar “Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.” I think he was telling us to be honest to ourselves and if a situation is bad say it is bad. Don’t try to make things seem better than they are, is his basic message.
In summary it was a good production because the stage was used to it’s fullness, you actually felt like you were part of the play, due to the great choreography of the sword fight. The storm scene was excellent and had a waving curtain and great atmospheric music. The best compliment I can give this play is that I could easily write a few more pages about it. The props were used great and the acting superb and best of all there was a sword fight. I mean you don’t see violence in modern day films and plays.