King Lear is arguably the greatest play ever written in the western hemisphere.
This story of love, betrayal, cruelty, madness, deceit, and tragedy, is focused, naturally on Lear. However, in reality, the play has ten other major characters who are essential to the play: Lear’s daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia; the Duke of Gloucester; his sons, Edgar and Edmund; the Earl of Kent; the Duke of Albany; the Duke of Cornwall; and Lear’s Fool.
Shakespeare’s genius, when directed with his wishes in mind, allows us to see the action from each character’s perspective. For example, at the beginning of Act 1 we hear Gloucester boasting to Kent about the “good sport” he had in creating his illegitimate son Edmund, which would be fine if Edmund were elsewhere. However he is about to be introduced to his father’s friend so he hears the conversation. Now, it is not that which causes resentment in Edmund but the fact he has an older brother, who upon the death of his father, will inherit the title and wealth that Edmund believes should be his. When he greets them, however, Edmund is both gracious and courteous. It is in Scene 2 that we see the real Edmund when we hear his great speech, which begins: ”Thou, nature, art my godess. To thy law my services are bound. Wherefore should I stand in the plague of custom the curiosity of nations to deprive me for that I am twelve or fourteen moonshines lag of a brother?” The remainder you will hear on Thursday night. That is just one example of the polar opposite points of view, of a given situation.
It is an example of what I find so extraordinary in King Lear.
Although, of course, this play is about the tragedy of Lear, Gloucester’s story is also a tragedy and I think that through him the whole play comes together. When we see the play this coming Thursday look out for the many times the main action switches back to Gloucester and how it moves the story on.
Now, to the production. We are in for one of those occasions when those who don’t go to this King Lear will be kicking themselves later for not going.
No matter what you have planned to do, other than to see this production, CHANGE YOUR PLANS.
The great Shakespearian actor, Derek Jacobi, plays the title role. His performance is being hailed as the Greatest Lear of the Modern Generation.
I have read many reviews from the English newspapers and they speak as one voice.
I have been trying to recall if there was any other production of a play that had received such outstanding reviews across the board and I cannot think of one.
So be at The Roxy on Thursday, February 3. The doors open at 6.30 pm and the play begins at 7 pm live From London’s Donmar Theatre.
P.S. I love this from Variety: “Derek Jacobi’s Lear is upsetting not because he scales epic heights but because he so startlingly plumbs the depths of terror.”