King Lear at the Almeida Theatre, part of the World Shakespeare Festival, opened to press last night (11 September 2012). The production stars stage veteran Jonathan Pryce as the eponymous king, with a supporting cast that includes Jenny Jules, Phoebe Fox, Zoe Waites, Kieran Bew, Michael Byrne, Steven Elliott, Ian Gelder and Richard Goulding.
Directed by Michael Attenborough, it runs until 3 November 2012.
Anyone seeing Lear for the first time tonight
would have got the impression that it was some kind of horror play...Tom Scutt's
set and costume design accentuate this rather monochrome world, hinting at dark
goings-on... Michael Attenborough's production is strong on the family dynamics
that underpin this tragedy with a novel interpretation of a motivation for Goneril
and Regan's malevolence...Jonathan Pryce is a fine Lear. There's an authority
to his verse speaking and he captures well the latent rage of a king...The
supporting cast is a bit and miss. The daughters are particularly strong...Not
the strongest production of Lear, perhaps...but it's strong on the
destructive nature of family relationships while Pryce's performance alone
makes this worth seeing.
Even in his most robust, most villainish roles, there is
always a trace of frailty to Jonathan Pryce…Michael Attenborough’s production
first impresses with its lucidity, with how it depicts the Lears as a family
unit…And if Pryce’s madness seems awful sudden and even rather empty as the
storm comes…He gets strong support from Trevor Fox as a dry Geordie Fool, from
the reliably good Wood, from Ian Gelder as the loyal Kent and from Waites as a
Goneril who looks to have reinvented herself in direct contrast to her father’s
emotionality… Yet there are moments, particularly in the long stretches where
Lear is off stage, when the production drops down a gear. It needs another
trick to help sustain the final hour.
Jonathan Pryce is the latest actor to scale Mount
Lear and, although it's getting a bit crowded on the summit these days, he
gives a striking, individualistic performance... The emphasis is on King Lear
as a family, rather than a cosmic, tragedy... It is striking how, even in
madness, Pryce's Lear remains sharp, quick and observant... And the supporting
performances are good without being radically surprising... One exception is
Phoebe Fox, who makes Cordelia a refreshingly ballsy figure, whose initial
response to dismissal by her father is to defiantly stay put... And Zoe Waites
and Jenny Jules lend Goneril and Regan a palpable sense of inherited wrong and
resentment even if it doesn't justify their subsequent monstrosity.
Jonathan Pryce brings an impressive mix of tenderness, quivering insecurity and raw passion... Michael Attenborough’s production is lucid, well-spoken and confidently paced (though hardly short). On a fine, forbidding set by Tom Scutt, it feels loaded with imagery of furtiveness and repression – but has a satisfying directness... There’s assured support from Clive Wood as Gloucester, whose blinding is as powerful a scene as ever, and from Trevor Fox as a gruff Fool who fancies himself as a bit of conjurer. Wood’s Gloucester appears weak but not bumbling; Fox’s Fool is a channel for the play’s darker thoughts... Kieran Bew’s Edmund bristles with masculinity, and Richard Goulding as his abused and ostracized brother Edgar has a touch of loucheness and plenty of spirit but also an air of vulnerability. Charles Spencer
This Lear seems little more than a vain and testy old buffer when his rage ought to terrify. His horrible curse of Goneril lacks the required venomous intensity... But when Lear’s wits really do begin to turn, Pryce suddenly becomes both thrilling and deeply moving... Attenborough’s production, set within the courtyard of a crumbling brick castle and with costumes that sometimes look as though they have been borrowed from the Ladybird Book of Medieval Dress... The acting is uneven too. Phoebe Fox’s petulant Cordelia is the least moving ...But Ian Gelder beautifully captures Kent’s dogged loyalty and devotion.. there are strong performances from Zoe Waites and Jenny Jules ...Kieran Bew, who discovers welcome humour in the role of Edmund.