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, August 21, 2016
Saxophonist Leszek Kulaszewicz playing at the Rafa Club, Cranbrook Road, Ilford

Tucked away from public view, the Ilford Rafa Club is one of Redbridge’s hidden gems where friends meet for a drink to the gentle sounds of jazz music. 
Chloe Farand visited and took a trip back in time

Saturday, August 20, 2016
Festival goers at the One Love festival

The founder of one of the world’s biggest reggae festivals has said he’s excited to return to Redbridge, which is the event’s “spiritual home”.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Saxophonist Leszek Kulaszewicz playing at the Rafa Club, Cranbrook Road, Ilford

Tucked away from public view, the Ilford Rafa Club is one of Redbridge’s hidden gems where friends meet for a drink to the gentle sounds of jazz music.

Monday, August 8, 2016
Members of the public wear William Shakespeare masks during the parade marking 400 years since the death of the playwright in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Just what does a man, dead for 400 years and born 112 miles away, have to do with the people of Redbridge?

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read entertainment

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Competitions

You could win £15,000 to spend on either their mortgage or a deposit towards the home of their dreams

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a period of time when you simply don’t have to worry about finding the money each month to pay your mortgage? When you don’t have to put money aside from your monthly income, or worry about having to afford other essential outgoings?

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.

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