Tim Piggott-Smith leads a strong and impressive cast in this compelling performance of one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.
A simplistic yet dramatically lit diagonally sloped cubic room sets the scene for much of the play. The actors deliver their age-old lines, whilst brandishing huge shiny swords and wearing enviably rich, red woollen coats with gold buttons. Silhouettes against the eerily lit room are visually captivating.
Lear’s three daughters; Cordelia Olivia Morgan, Goneril Neve McIntosh and Regan Hedydd Dylan portray their mixture of resentment, honesty and cunning towards their Father with equal doses of intrigue and fascination.
As Lear wanders aimlessly on the heath in the storm, ranting about his daughters to the Fool, the accompanying lighting and sound is realistic and stirring. Most noteworthy were the aluminium sheets at either side of the stage which were drummed to emulate thunder.
The comic and tragic timing of the cast is particularly memorable; bringing to life the Shakespearean English, Director Ian Brown has led his company to an accessible-for-all performance that prompts audience responses of laughter, gasps and cries as if it were spoken in a modern-day tongue.
Balancing the tragedy with humour, Poor Tom (the disguised Edgar) and the Fool bring jovial rhyme and song aplenty. I found the interaction between Poor Tom and the delirious Lear particularly funny, as Lear repeatedly enquires as to whether he too has gone insane as a result of his daughters’ behaviour.
Lear’s initial disappointment towards his favoured Cordelia, the unfounded belief in Goneril and Regan and the ultimate realisation of his misjudgement is an emotional cycle that Pigott-Smith delivers heartbreakingly. I would challenge even the most stonehearted readers not to cry as Lear grieves over the corpse of Cordelia.
Kicking off at 7.15pm, the performance included a short interval and finished at 10.35pm; a little too late on a School night for me. For this reason, I’d recommend a matinee performance for those up early on weekdays.
Whether you’re familiar with the story of Lear or not, this regal and moving production is not to be missed.
King Lear runs until October 22nd. For tickets call the Box Office on 0113 2137700 or go to www.wyp.org.uk