Ripeness is all

Front Row / 9th May, 2014

National Theatre Live at the Ipswich Corn Exchange.

The week that has gone saw King Lear beamed live to the Ipswich Corn Exchange and another 1000 theatres all over the world simultaneously from the Barbican.

king lear_tlgfSimon Russell Beale is the ‘old King’ and utilises a limp and stoop to emphasis the part, the former researchers now believe, was a symptom of advanced Alzheimer’s which is why he so rashly carves up his kingdom into 3 and then into 2 when his most loved daughter, Cordelia will not sign up to a false oration of her filial love which precipitates the meltdown, war & descent into bloody madness.

The play has always shredded my nerves – made worse now because I know what’s coming, so the brutal proceedings against Gloucester are too much for me to watch – and the graphic text matches the actions…

”Out, vile jelly!  Where is thy lustre now?”

…snaps Cornwall as he gouges out the Earl’s other eye.

I am not sure how I would fare with Titus Andronicus currently at the Globe where some theatregoers have passed out during the most violent scenes.

King Lear’s totalitarian state is set in a modern setting but as the facade of diplomacy and decency is steadily stripped away so is the players’ attire – it is noticeable that Edgar at the end who has faced total insanity appearing naked with painted flesh (like a native) and speaking gibberish, is the totem bearer and his return from ‘the brink’ is a sign of what is possible and combined with a returning dress code denotes his ascent back to civilised society.

skyfall_tlgf_jpgDirected by Sam Mendes (of SkyFall fame) this production is profoundly dark – very little light glimmers – a holocaust is the outcome and of course very few survive.  I left feeling burnt and stained by the venom in mankind and how a play that is more than 400 years old can still be relevant – Syria is the obvious current exempla but the narrative on a more localised level can really agitate the blood and energies of a modern day audience.

The next NT live production in Ipswich is is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on Thursday 22nd May.  I urge you to go and try one of these live performances – it is not the same as live theatre as clearly you cannot determine what you watch, or experience the audience reaction in situ but it genuinely does capture the next best thing – the real essence ‘of live’ at a distance!

Posted by: Fawkes