28 May 2010
Playhouse, The Arts Centre
Walking across Prince's Bridge after King Lear, I overheard a couple discussing Edgar and Edmund. How brilliant is that? Bell Shakespeare's production told the story so well that people were leaving the theatre talking about the characters, not the actors.
It's hard to believe that it was 20 years since John Bell established a company dedicated to our Bard and are celebrating with a national tour of King Lear, with the company's namesake playing the king for the third time in his career.
Director Marion Potts (soon to be Artistic Director of Malthouse Theatre) makes character a priority and ensures that every heightened syllable brings the audience closer to the truth and madness by allowing each performer to develop a very personal interpretation of their character. Jane Montgomery Griffiths's Goneril is especially fascinating, Peter Carroll's Fool is how I will think of this Fool from now on and Bell's Lear is clearly the from-the-heart interpretation Bell has always wanted to show.
Supporting the cast, story flows from Dale Ferguson's understated stage design and his "robes and furred gowns" unashamedly declare power and status. Act One is accompanied by Bree van Reyk's on-stage percussion punctuating the language, building the tension and becoming such an integral guide in the world that characters freely add their own emphasis and beats; it's removal in Act Two leaves a world searching for guidance.
Bell Shakespeare grace our main stages and also work consistently to bring the Bard's tales to "all Australians, no matter who or where they are". With school programs, a regional teacher's scholarship and remarkable programs like the Hearts in a Row (HIAR) partnership with The Big Issue, this company refuse to think that Shakepeare is just for fizz-swilling toffs.
Edgar closes King Lear with a reminder to bloggers and reviewers: "Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say." I say that this is the kind of Shakespeare that I love.
This review appears on AussieThearte.com