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THE ARTSEMERSON BLOG

What did you think of King Lear?

Thank you for attending Shakespeare’s Globe’s Production of King Lear! We are so thrilled to have this company in our theater again and would love to hear your thoughts on the performance.

 

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Did you see Shakespeare’s Globe’s production of Hamlet?

Is this your first experience with Shakespeare with the lights on?

Why do you think King Lear is so popular these? What about the story resonates to our present moment?

Who would you recommend this play to?

 

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us!

19 Comments

  1. Phillip GlennOctober 16, 2014 at 10:15 am

    We simply could not understand much if not most of the wording. I”m not sure how much that is a matter of the Paramount’s acoustics (we were in the balcony) and how much it’s attributable to acting/directing choices. I know this play well; still, moments of poetry, wit, grief, and depth often did not come through. The production was crisp and energetic. But it did not engage me the way I hoped it would.

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  2. I concur with the statement about hearing. I was in row H and only could make out about half the dialog which is a real problem witrh Shakespeare. While I found the actors excellent and engaging I never think of Lear and slapstick going together….maybe I’m getting old but this type of fiddling requires a slightly more deft hand at direction than what was on display. Nevertheless I applaud the effort to keep the Bard alive, in whatever form.

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  3. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance; thought every minute of the standing ovation was well deserved, and more. The addled king moved me, as he almost always does, bu particularly at the end in this performance – I’ve never been so touched by his vulnerability and tenderness. I had a seat up close, so understanding wasn’t a problem. A friend had one further back (about 2/3 way back on the bottom level) and had the same problem understanding as the other two gents above. He joined me down front after the intermission and could hear fine there.

    The character-swapping created a fun challenge for me – really made me work to follow the dramatic line. Edmund/Oswald’s back-and-forth toward the end was a little heavy handed for me. But all in all the slapstick provided comic relief for me – and I needed a breather after some of the heart-wrenching moments. Pairing the fool and Cordelia really rang true for me – two fresh truth-speakers; and she played the fool brilliantly.

    Thanks for a wonderful evening. How nice to have actors from Shakespeare’s home theater at our front door!

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  4. I loved this performance. King Lear is one of my favorite plays. However I also concur with the auditory issues stated above. Most I understood but some (considerable) speech was too fast and too loud and both made me miss the words. I am sure this is tricky to articulate Shakespearean poetic english without making it sound unnatural. But much of the play was understood so I know it can be done. It was mainly King Lear’s emotional speaches that got lost. I still LOVED it in spite of the auditory issues.

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  5. Joyce DevlinOctober 17, 2014 at 11:55 am

    I thought the production was dreadful and we left during intermission. The directors concept did not suit the material at all (pre show, multiple roles, use of music, and so forth). Some of the acting was very good, but we found the Thursday evening performance over the top. Bethany Cullinane was excellent in both roles although we found the combination troubling. The designs were
    adequate but the scene on the Heath was ineffective. We were very disappointed.

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  6. Joan LancourtOctober 17, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Shakespeare would have loved this production. He knew his audiences well, hi and low, and this Lear played to both. It was so refreshing to see an approach to the play that was not mired in ‘this is THE GREAT TRAGEDY’. The approach was fresh, mixing fun, and expertly infused with the deep insights that have made it universal and timeless. I think it is exactly how Shakespeare would have played it. There was a wonderful rhythm to the deep explorations of loss, aging, power, greed, sinister cruelty and humor. It is an ensemble approach rather than a star turn, tho Joseph Marcell was wonderful as Lear, by turns imperious, vulnerable, tragically flawed in his egotistical rejection of Cordelia, then devastated by her death. Regan and Gonoril were suitably venal, cruel, arrogant and unreasonable – the kind of villains you wanted to boo, the Fool tender and nimble witted by turns. Having actors play multiple roles gave the play a new kind of energy, the spare set, costumes and music fully in keeping with Shakespearean drama. It also ensured that all the roles were played with a level of excellence not always found in the lesser roles. This is a rare opportunity to see a very different interpretation of the play – and one that is every bit as valid as the more traditional approaches. And make no mistake, ALL the greatness of the play is there – in the words, that, even with some difficulty of accents, acoustics, etc. connect actor and audience in a shared experience of human foibles, regrets and love.

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  7. andreja homo ludensOctober 18, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I loved it! The energy was amazing….have a safe trip home (I understand there are a few more stops first in the US) and please come back soon with a different play!
    Thank you !

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  8. I found it somewhat enjoyable, but the difficulty in hearing the words was a very big problem ( I was in the middle of Row H in the orchestra). the persistent thunder at the end of act one, extending well beyond all reason, was particularly annoying and drastically interfered with the understand-ability of the dialogue. The King Lear was good, but much less effective than the last performer I’d heard in that tole. I agree with the critics that the adaptations that were made took away from the depth of the tragedy and lessened the dramatic effect of the play.
    Based on this experience, I probably would not bother to see any other effort by this company..

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  9. Suzette JonesOctober 19, 2014 at 9:57 am

    This production was certainly “Lear Light”. The director took advantage of every comedic opportunity, appropriate or not. Lear didn’t come over as a tragic character, more as a bumbling silly old fool. Even though I’m English, I found a lot of the speeches hard to understand, in terms of working out exactly what words the actors were speaking. The music at the end, with the dead jumping up and dancing, certainly ruined the ending for me.

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  10. Don and Helen CohenOctober 20, 2014 at 9:59 am

    We thought this was a wonderful production–moving, intelligent, rich in thought and feeling, and staged with imagination and sensitivity.

    We don’t agree at all with the reviews and comments that complain about the comic and casual elements, as if the play should be solemn from start to finish. Shakespeare always mixes moods and styles–that’s part of his greatness–and the production was in many ways true to what probably would have been seen at the Globe.

    We’ve now seen two plays performed by this company at ArtsEmerson–Hamlet was the other–and loved them both. If they come again, we will make a point of seeing whatever play they give us.

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  11. Yes, the acoutics are not the best in the theater.

    A marvelous production, well cast. I never realized the humor in King Lear which offset the
    tragedy. Three cheers for the actors.

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  12. Gary AndrewsOctober 20, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    The great tragedians regard Lear as the pinnacle role, one to be tackled only in one’s maturity. The reason, I imagine, is that it’s so difficult both to invest the folly of the partitioning of the kingdom with believability, and to imbue the dire outcome with suitable pathos. In truth, this relies not just on the skills of the actor playing Lear, but on the skills of his associates, director, staging, the lot. In this production it all came together for me. Having seen a number of Lears over sixty years of theatre-going in Australia, I have never seen it bettered. The doubling of roles may have been a mite confusing at times (leading to a presentation somewhat akin to Noises Off), but the cast handled it superbly. As one commentator remarks, Shakespeare was no stranger to the mixing of tragedy and humour, and this – and the interspersing of music – worked so well. And the tragedy was not in any way diminished. I have never before been moved to tears by a theatrical performance; even in deeply emotional plays the artifice has been apparent. But with this Lear, from the moment of Mad Tom’s encounter with his blinded father through to the final scene the tears were running down my cheeks! Congratulations.

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  13. Morgan ReynoldsOctober 22, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Joseph Marcell was marvelous to watch. His every gesture and movement was perfectly calculated, mad and regal.

    Doubling the Fool with Cordelia, a long-standing interpretation that I value, was effective as well.

    As a first year teacher getting into a unit on drama, I needed a performance like this to revitalize me, to show me what life behind the lights is really about (even if I have trouble staying awake beyond 9:30pm).

    The tour of Richard III by this same company is still my favorite overall performance to date, but Marcell’s Lear was impeccable.

    I should also note that I sat near the back and had no trouble with the acoustics.

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  14. Sorry – I didn’t like it. I found most of the actors bombastic, with little modulation of their delivery. I also found the multiple character changes by the same actors confusing. I found myself hard pressed to feel sympathy for any of the characters, save Gloucester. The performance compared very unfavorably with that with Ian McClellam available on YouTube.

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  15. My wife and I attended the performance last night (WED) and sat in the second row, orchestra right. As Shakespearean actors ourselves, (Peregrine Theatre Ensemble-Provincetown, MA) we were eager to see this production, despite the rather awful Boston Globe review. We were pleasantly surprised, as all things picked on in that review were delights in reality. The simplicity of the set, musicality of the production, and dialect work all were stand out. I applaud the actors for physicalizing the Bard, and playing with both one another and the audience. With the amount of shows and the length of this run, it is no wonder to me people call this ‘Lear Light’, but I think those who say that have never been in full productions of Shakespeare, and have missed the idea of play. Glad to see the house was quite full last night and hope the closing show has a wonderful turnout as well. Good tidings to the Globe and the future of this run of King Lear. Huzzah!

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  16. Brigitte boyadjianOctober 23, 2014 at 9:19 am

    I enjoyed King Lear immensely. The acting was great!!!

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  17. “King Lear” is my favorite Shakespeare play. I was excited about seeing this production. I am at a loss : I don’t understand the logic behind the choices the director made–from the role of Lear, to the music, to the speed of the delivery (too fast), to the skeletal set, to the combining of merriment with tragedy. If the director was aiming of an “ensemble” production, he succeeded to a large extent because some of the secondary roles–Cordelia, the fool, Edgar, Edmund, Gloucester, among others–were rendered with great effect and skill. But Lear himself, played by a relatively young, energetic, and charming Joseph Marcell, contributed significantly to this sense of bewilderment that I felt. Add to this the fact that in an effort to make this difficult, wayward play “accessible,” the director had minimized the royal, the kingly. But can Lear be understood, can we feel pity and fear in the unfolding of his drama, in his fall from authority, sanity, familial connections without the background of the royal past, without his past stature as king and father and leader? True, the play begins at the point of the King’s vain decision, at the origin of unraveling, but at that point he is still king, old but still king. Joseph Marcell’s Lear is not very old-looking; he has too much energy which he distributes to his entire retinue. But “King Lear,” to my thinking, is about the gradual loss of life’s vitality, its downward spiral into a mad whirl which ends with the final scene of stasis of total destruction of the self, of family, and territory. No one is spared this spiral, to which even nature contributes. The only response to this horrific turn of events is pity and fear.
    For me, Lear’s fall is a lament on the folly of old men cursed with vanity, but it is a lament more than anything else–more than occasional bawdy lines and screams, and “King Lear” had very little lament. There was a lot of busy talk, some of it funny and entertaining, some of it fast and incomprehensible.
    Still, despite all these problems, two scenes made my eyes well, and my throat lock. But was this due to the original words and scene or was it the performance of the Globe? I am not sure I have a definitive answer.

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  18. Hi,
    I’m 64 years old and yesterday afternoon was wonderful. I have not read Shakespeare since high school and recently began to enter his world. Last night was my first Shakespeare play and thanks for the great first impression. Hats off to your staff and the great usher on my side who was so excited to see how happy I was just being there. The theater is just beautiful. I sat in 4th row center, seat 111; fantastic. I spoke to Joseph Marcell as he walked around the theater before the performance. Fortunately, this past month I listened first to the play on the Arkangel CDs many times, then read No Fear Shakespeare while listening to CDs, avoiding the temptation to see it on video. I was able to keep track of the different roles being being played by the so talented actors. I despised Cornwall, then had to love him as Edgar. I fell in Love with Cordelia right away as I knew I would and was so happily surprised as she played Lear’s Fool so well. The entire cast is cast well, the stage perfect in it’s simplicity allowing no distraction; more matter and less art. I intentionally sat by myself and just had a ball, watching with the eyes of my inner child. Shakespeare endures because human nature doesn’t change. We are born, live, love, get sick, die and meet some nice and not so nice folks along the way, but when our memory starts to go, bar any other ailments, we confront our mortality. Because of technology we are now well aware how many of us struggle with memory/dementia or at least know of someone who does and don’t get me started on lousy sisters. Anyway, I’m hooked now. Thank the cast for me. All the best, Joe

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  19. It was so disappointing. We found it very difficult to hear. We were sitting in the balcony. We left at intermission as did several others in the balcony section. I wasn’t impressed with the set either. The upturned lights didn’t work for us because there was a family with young children in front of us who continually changed seats – maybe if it were dark it would be less distracting.

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