Search

Theatre review: King Lear at Almeida Theatre

11:12 19 September 2012

Chook Sibtain (Cornwall), Jenny Jules (Regan), Jonathan Pryce (King Lear), Zoe Waites (Goneril) and Richard Hope (Albany) in King Lear, Almeida Theatre. Photo Keith Pattison

Chook Sibtain (Cornwall), Jenny Jules (Regan), Jonathan Pryce (King Lear), Zoe Waites (Goneril) and Richard Hope (Albany) in King Lear, Almeida Theatre. Photo Keith Pattison

Archant

Jonathan Pryce shines in Michael Attenborough’s fast-paced production at the Almeida

» Jonathan Pryce wowed Almeida audiences last time he was here, playing a middle-aged dad who falls madly in love with a goat (in Edward Albee’s play The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?) Here he shines again, in the ultimate play about tragic family troubles and madness.

Unusually for Shakespeare’s bleakest work, Michael Attenborough’s fast-paced production has the audience chuckling in the aisles at times. The eye-gouging scene is particularly gross, though.

Pryce gives a delicate portrayal of the infirm old man. In lesser productions, Lear’s howls and ravings often steal the show, giving the audience a collective nervous breakdown in the process. But here Attenborough lavishes attention on other characters and sub-plots too. The funny Geordie Fool (Trevor Fox), Edgar/the naked man (Richard Goulding) and Edmund the bastard (Kieran Bew) all stick out memorably.

There’s a general lightness of tone, so for example chatter about the fateful, catastrophic gods and planets is jokily ironic, even glib, rather than dour and fearful.

Pryce is often (but not always) soft-spoken, mild-mannered, avuncular. He convincingly teases out the Lear-as-victim side to the character, the man “more sinned against than sinning” – even though he never quite becomes endearing. It’s hard to forget that this is the evil lunatic who just booted out his ‘good’ daughter, Cordelia, while embracing her ‘evil’ sisters, Goneril and Regan (impressively played by Zoe Waites and Jenny Jules).

But Pryce’s king may have even darker, more stomach-churning secrets to hide. I’ve never before seen him forcibly snog Goneril: a leering Lear. And unlike many productions which chart his descent into madness, this Lear is clearly bonkers from the start.

We feel close to this family drama in the Almeida’s intimate space, and the stone set – a mouldy old castle, or disused warehouse – is an effective backdrop that combines well with thunderous sound and lighting effects. Designer Tom Scutt says he aimed for a timeless vibe; his costumes are half-medieval, half Mad Max.

Many timeless moments to enjoy in this version may surprise you, aside from the main drama: references to worthless lawyers’ advice, lying politicians, and even the insult “you base footballer,” which got the biggest laugh of the night.

* King Lear is at Almeida Theatre in Almeida Street, N1, until November 3. Box office 020 7359 4404

0 comments

Latest Ilford Entertainment Stories

Sunday, July 17, 2016
Boorskale cast rehearsing at the Kenneth More Theatre.
It’s a musical comedy about four widows from a small village and their trial and tribulations.
Paul Ritchie Tonkinson, Patrick Clancy, David Alder, Mark Hutchinson,

A musical director swapping Broadway for Ilford is feeling excited about bringing a comedy with a “black sense of humour” to the borough.

Saturday, July 16, 2016
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is set to perform at the O2 Arena on August 14. Picture: The O2

A veteran Qawwali singer is set to perform his greatest hits at a “magical” arena show.

Saturday, July 16, 2016
A West End performance of the musical Cats, which is on at the Kenneth More Theatre. Picture: PA/Andrew Milligan

The stars of tomorrow are taking the stage to perform one of Britain’s best loved musicals at the Kenneth More Theatre.

Saturday, July 9, 2016
St Augustine's Players - Lessons in Lust and Lies

Turning real life situations into a comic adventure, an amateur theatre group will take its audience on a journey of laughter with three original plays.

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read entertainment

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Competitions

Which book character do you share cleaning habits with?

Whether you have more in common with put-upon Cinderella, emotionally turbulent Jane Eyre, or easily distracted Mole, you’re sure to appreciate that one lucky winner will receive four sessions of free cleaning. Enter our quiz for your chance to win. All runners up will get £10 off their first clean when making a repeat booking.

£15k prize bundle

Imagine having the opportunity to win an incredible £15,000 bundle of some of the most amazing prizes available. Well, for one lucky contest entrant that dream could soon become a reality because we at MyOffers are offering an incredible free prize bundle that will make even the most hardened person wild with excitement.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Ilford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now