One wonders what production the other reviewers witnessed. I, too, was bowled senseless by the unexpected decor. Turning the corner from the tin corridor leading to the theatre, one's first impression is WOW.
From there, it's a misguided production, downhill all the way, strangely unmoving at the end. Shouldn't Lear elicit some feeling at the end? Oliver Ford Davies leaves us flat, uncaring about the lovely Cordelia. Even the recognition scene is totally unrealized. A difficult feat for director and actors.
But the true culprit is Paul Brown. Yes, WOW on first sight, but thereafter, I spent the first 1 1/2 hours of the show contemplating exactly HOW they would get rid of the set for the rage of nature that should be the soul of this terrifying drama. An unsuccessful coup had walls falling apart, electrical outages arcing across the stage; but alas, no one thought to strike the furniture. Lovely antique pieces sitting about on the heath, interior scenes playing in sopping sets, a stately desk for a hovel. It became all too ridiculous for my taste.
Even the estimable and ubiquitous Mark Henderson proved unsuccessful in lighting the figures.
And the intermission? Quite the most interesting part of the production. What a spectacle, what with water vacuums, an army of sponge and mop-wielding crew (including the ushers) trying desperately to clean up the mess. On the night I saw it the intermission was stretched to almost 35 minutes to allow for clean-up. Quite the proof of Aristotle's call for unities. The second half could never recover.
Paul Jesson's Kent quite stole the show for me. He was superb, an all round singular performance offset by the totally miscast Anthony O'Donnell whose Fool was frequently incomprehensible. We went to bed long before noon. - USER: Whatsonstage.com
19 Mar 02
there is nothing else like it around. It does things you didn't think were possible in a theatre. And while it might not be the subtlest rendering of the play, it brings the central cataclysm of the play - and its consequent void - to vivid visual life. I've rarely been so excited watching a production. - USER: Whatsonstage.com
16 Feb 02
KL has a problem getting the audience involved - after all, it is not like Hamlet, about a young chap, or Romeo and Juliet, two lovers. It is about an old bloke who is losing it and can't see what is obvious to everyone else, that his older daughters are cows and that he had better look out and that his youngest d. is honest. Idea underlined by subplot of course. So this production addresses this problem immediately by taking us into the same room as the king and the rest. We are with the daughters as they pace the floor wondering how it is going to go and we are there when the curses fly -a brilliant design coup. It is hard to do a storm but then again they have a good go with real water [ i was a bit worried about all the wet!] So it is the overall drive and vision that is so good here - the actors do their thing well, with one or two new insights and cool perfomances. The speaking of the words - not always the best thing in a Sh show - is very good with the director obviously having discussed what he wants pointed. - USER: Whatsonstage.com
16 Feb 02
PAUL BROWN is one of our finest designers....its such a shame that he wont get Olivier Recognition, and the same for Jonathan Kent. Their productions are more exciting than half those nominated this year. Its a scandal!! - USER: Whatsonstage.com
16 Feb 02
The Almeida's King Lear ROCKS. All hail Paul Brown. - USER: Whatsonstage.com
16 Feb 02
A telluric production of King Lear! Be prepared to accompany Lear into his madness. The set is just amazing; Lear and the Fool are acting brilliantly. A few weaknesses nevertheless: Regan and Gonerill are slightly overdoing it and Gloucester and Edgar are not playing at their best. Finally, the war with France could have benefited of a similar treatment as the storm’s scenes. Overall it is one of the best Lear I have seen and I can’t but highly recommend it and I am going to see it again! - USER: Whatsonstage.com
06 Feb 02
I almost completely agree with the previous poster. THis is a wonderful wonderful production, with some real aces up the sleeve in terms of staging. You go in thinking, okay, nice set but sort of dull by Almeida standards - but don't be fooled - wow! And wonderful acting all around. The part I disagree with is regards james frain's edmund which I thought was *fabulous!* Real charisma, sinister but sympathetic, moving and sexy but by dent of personality and power not becuase he's some conventional pretty boy. tom hollander's edgar was also impressive. and Suzanne berden's Goneral - geez! what a she-devil, magnificent! Also enjoyed David Ryall's Gloucester and Davies' Lear, of course, and in a much smaller part but no less impressive, david sibley's oiley servant Oswald. Great great great. Three and a quarter hours just flew by and I left feeling spent but elated at the same time - does that make sense. I might go again. And, oh yes, thanks too to What's On Stage, the offer was great and much appreciated. - USER: Whatsonstage.com
04 Feb 02
2 Feb: I'm not about to give anything away, but take it from me, this is another great Jonathan Kent production in a devastating visual concept from Paul Brown. Mostly excellent performances - although James Frain's Edmund had me reaching for the zapper; but the real star of this stunning production, as with the wonderful Platonov, is the design. It's so intricate that it requires an extended interval and a crew of about 14 to reset it for the second half.
I was blown away by this production. I predict a lot of hostility to it from some quarters, since it's creatively very daring and sometimes completely off the wall (literally); but I was part of a VERY appreciative matinée audience today, so I know I'm not alone. Oliver Ford Davies is an oustanding Lear, but for me David Ryall's Gloucester stands with Henry Goodman's Shylock as one of the great Shakespearean performances of recent years.
Only around 275 seats in the Almeida for this show, so I'd recommend an early booking. This Lear is really special.
- USER: Whatsonstage.com
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