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This is another one of the great Shakespeare plays which I did not know at all before starting this project. (I thought I might have seen a school production but must have been mistaken.) It's a bleak piece of work, two dysfunctional families (Lear and his daughters, Gloster and his sons) who are each capable of private disaster and combine to make public catastrophe. Lear in particular is a walking emotional trainwreck. Shakespeare's triumph here is that although Lear behaves incredibly badly in the very first scene, we still sympathise enough to want to know what happens to him. Edmuind is a much smoother baddie, who is worthy of a play of his own. The plot is a wee bit wobbly at the edges, but that's not the point: this is a play about strong characters and their families.

The bit with Gloster's eyes being pulled out and jumped on is pretty repulsive - I don't recall anything this gruesome in Shakespeare since Titus Andronicus; perhaps the audience was demanding more gore?

Arkangel have two excellent actors paying Lear and Edgar in Trevor Peacock (who I'm ashamed to say I knew only from The Vicar of Dibley before I started this project) and David Tennant (whoever he is). Along with the Fool (John Rogan) they rather overshadow the rest of the cast - I particularly wished that Gerry Murphy as Edmund had found a little more oomph. But basically the quality of the script carries even average performances from the others to make it a pretty good listen.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
iainjcoleman
Mar. 7th, 2009 12:43 pm (UTC)
The recent Ian McKellen production (which was on telly over Christmas, and will probabky be available on DVD) is excellent. It's a very strong cast, and Sylvester McCoy does a great job as the Fool.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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