BY NO MORE WORKHORSE ON OCTOBER 8, 2015
William Shakespeare’s King Lear – Mill Theatre Dundrum – Review by LAW
Directed by : Geoff O’Keeffe
September 29th- October 23rd
King Lear is a remarkably oft quoted play in our household: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” is a particular favourite…Our study of the play for Leaving Cert 1993 has impressively stood the test of time and I looked forward to revisiting the play in its current run for this year’s Leaving Cert students in the Mill Theatre in Dundrum.
King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s Tragedies. It depicts the descent into madness of the title character, who compelled by pride, decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters on the basis of how well they love him, bringing tragic consequences to all. Cordelia, Lear’s youngest daughter, after hearing the false proclamations of love from her elder sisters, Goneril and Regan, decides to be honest with her father and not fawn over him to get a bigger portion of his realm. Lear is furious with her and cuts her off completely. Lear proclaims that he will spend the rest of his days living between his two elder daughters and their husbands. However, Goneril and Regan reveal that they find Lear an old and foolish man and have little patience for him or his foibles.
The sub-plot of King Lear sees two brothers, Edgar and Edmund, torn apart by jealousy. Edmund, the bastard child of Gloucester, resents his illegitimate status and plans to dispose of his legitimate brother Edgar. Edmund also tears Goneril and Regan’s relationship apart as he seduces both of them and sets in place a plan for the sisters to off their husbands, Cornwall and Albany and ultimately for them to destroy each other.
King Lear is renowned for its symbolism of nature- its exploration of human nature, of what is natural and unnatural. Geoff O’Keeffe uses sound to great effect in his production, as the sound of the storm and thunder is intermingled with the sound of apes, as if to remind us that the world is a jungle and that we can return to our most base instincts when overtaken by greed and power.
The cast of this production of King Lear was unbalanced, but the quality of the acting of some players, elevated the weaker performances. Lenny Hayden in the title role gave blood, literal sweat and tears to the part and it would be a hard heart that would fail to be unmoved by his performance of a broken man, aware that his pride has been the cause of his ruination and driven mad by the events that he set in motion.
Paul Elliott gave a great performance as Edmund, in full Machiavellian villany. Neill Fleming and Brian Molloy were also excellent as Gloucester and Kent. But by far the stand-out performance was by Shane O’Regan as the Fool. O’Regan gives a master class in physical theatre performance giving a completely captivating performance.
King Lear is a play meant to be appreciated in its viewing and it is raw, visceral and epic in scale, as noted by O’Keefe in his director’s note. Written in the 1600’s, its themes are so universal that it can still feel contemporary. It is a shame if this run only catches the attention of Leaving Cert students, because it is worthy of a much wider audience