An epic event overtakes The Shakespeare’s Globe this season in King Lear as the long-awaited return of director Helena Kaut-Howson, 25 years after debuting Kathryn Hunter in the role of King Lear the duo have reunited to place the production in the grandest of arenas. And even more of a treat is to spot Artistic Director, Michelle Terry as the Cordelia/ Lear’s Fool as she handles the text beautifully- we are watching a piece where masters of this craft manoeuvre us through a very complex tragedy with grace and fine tuning to each line spoken. It was a pleasure to see the excitement of the cast- the energy of the space was heightened by the meaning of placing this production back on a stage 25 years on. I wonder how the creatives tackled this piece differently, which parts hold different meaning as they age alongside the words and what it means to speak the same words but from the lenses of wisdom gained since.
The technicality required from a late Shakespeare text is shown here, it being 3 hours and 10 minutes it is a heavy duty to hold an audience’s gaze and attention for that time period especially when the tragedy is slow and teased out rather than the exciting wars and fighting we often see. This being said, I struggled to keep my focus completely but once you’re out, it’s hard to climb back in and I almost wished some cuts had been made for the sake of keeping a steady pace that keeps the audience engaged. Is it a question of how our attention span has shortened and perhaps 25 years ago we may have been more engaged but coming out of that last recent years I’ve found that theatre is harder to consume when you know it is pushing 3 hours. However, there were some very powerful moments that did transcend but too far in between action and ultimately confused me on where I was.
A real stand out performance came from Ryan Donaldson performing as Edmund who really took grasp of the audience’s attention at every entrance on stage. They created an excellent villain to fall in love with, so much so that I almost wished their success. A great understanding of pace, holding moments to allow us to be involved with him and his plans.
The atmosphere of being in this space is grand and holds such a beautiful history that watching a Shakespeare here feels very exciting and I would always encourage an experience here. This tragedy holds so much depth and humour that makes it extremely enjoyable but definitely bring something comfy to sit on as it is a long journey.
Playing until 24 July. Check https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on/king-lear-2022/ for dates, times and full ticket information.
Reviewer: Alice Rose
Reviewed: 18th June 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★