Date: 1st of April 2011
Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon
What : King Lear
I’ve seen this production before. Last year. But then Kathryn Hunter was the Fool. Now there was a story. Ms Hunter excellent as the Fool in King Lear, dire as Cleopatra in Anthony and Cleopatra. One reviewer called that production “gob-smackingly bad”. I was kinder.
And then she quit. Some statement about artistic differences from the producer. I wish I’d known this was going to happen. I’d like to have seen how Cleopatra would have worked with the very promising Katy Stephens in the role but I woke up to the development too late.
Now in Lear it is a different matter. Kathryn Hunter’s relationship with Greg Hicks’ King was one of the high points of the original production. Tonight, Sophie Russell’s Fool is much more innocuous, almost in the background of the plot. You hardly notice her even in the most memorable lines she doesn’t impose herself on the production.
And yet the production survives, proving indeed that the play is the thing. King Lear has always been my favourite of Shakespeare’s children – I’ve only seen one bad production – and this is very good.
Here, where one role is underplayed, then there is more than enough to feast upon and all the other roles step to fore to fill any gap. Hicks, again, is marvellous as Lear. Charles Aitken is an evocative Edgar and reaches the peak of his performance in the real or pretended insanity of Poor Tom. Tunji Kasim doesn’t really capture the self-serving and evil nature of Edmund but he is enough. The aforementioned Katy Stephens is Regan here and all three daughters are captured well especially Cordelia who is played by Samantha Young.
Darrell D’Silva, who was the best thing about last year’s below par production of Anthony and Cleopatra, has grown into the part of Kent and is loyalty towards the King is much needed and allows that theme still to be to the fore despite the quiet Fool.