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 Entertainment Stories

Friday, December 5, 2014
Gravenhurst - Flashlight Seasons/Black Holes In The Sand/Offerings: Lost Songs 2000-2004

Gravenurst’s lauded Nick Talbot, whose tragic death aged 37 was announced this morning, releases unheard material and two early albums that only reinforce his talents.

Monday, December 1, 2014
John Grant - With The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra: Live In Concert

The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra are employed to superb effect in this spine-tingling concert with the singer-songwriter.

Friday, November 28, 2014
Kelis - Live In London

Kelis comes out on top with nifty reinterpretations of career classics and a feast of fun from her latest album.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Kill It Kid - You Owe Nothing

Brit rockers wring every ounce of emotion from this debut set - but is it enough?

Most read entertainment

Prices are dropping like nobody’s business – and they’re set to fall further in January.

Cook congratulates employees on one of the biggest year’s in Apple’s history.

A Gogglebox family will have to keep their comments about the week’s TV to themselves from now on.

The online encyclopaedia created a special video showing how the year’s event are linked.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Ilford Recorder e-edition today E-edition