Ripeness is all
National Theatre Live at the Ipswich Corn Exchange.
Simon 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.
Directed 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