King Lear at the West Yorkshire Playhouse
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
Rating: 4 sta