ATG have brought a superb production to Brighton. It is the Lear all need to see, especially if their first experience was rather poor like mine. Seeing this production made me realise that Lear is hard to do well but when it is it can be spectacular. It has been overshadowed by the upcoming Deborah Warner production at the Old Vic starring Glenda Jackson but I think this will be a hard Lear to follow.
Max Webster’s King Lear (played by Michael Pennington) is atmospheric; the storm scene is exceptional on such a small space and some really subtle performances. Pennington is a very understated but effective Lear. He starts off strong but early elements of Lear’s madness are much clearer in his first scene with his daughters. I also enjoyed Pip Donaghy as Gloucester. The eye gorge scene is probably too graphic for some stomachs but it is the perfect conclusion to the high expectations of those scenes. Technically it was a strong production, I really enjoyed the sound and the simple set managed to convey the complexities and grand locations within the play.
The daughters are played incredibly well by Beth Cooke, Catherine Bailey and Sally Scott as Cordelia, Goneril and Reagan. There is a really nice touch to have Reagan as a new mother and what initially seems like a gimmick is used brilliantly without affecting the text. The only characters I struggled with were Edgar (Gavin Fowler) and Edmund (Scott Karim), it wasn’t that they were bad performances but based on looks I questioned whether their roles should be reversed. The charming Fowler would have more women fighting over him than the gaunt, monotone Edmund Karim performs.
The three hour production flies by, you care about the characters and for me has been a real showcase for actors that I wasn’t previously familiar with. Joshua Elliott, a recent Central School of Speech and Drama graduate is a fantastic Fool, silly and energetic he shows real concern when his master’s madness becomes apparent.
King Lear is touring throughout the UK