This week I saw King Lear and Cymbeline. Huge, long, meandering plays. Cymbeline is the play with endless endings and King Lear is the play with endless middle scenes. Both have mystical elements as well as very earthy elements of lust, death, power, family squabbles, tragedy and comedy.
I think that the division of Shakespeare’s plays into either a tragedy, or history, or comedy starts the theatre community off to a false start. It has long been my approach that the plays are virtually all tragic-comedies. Naturally some lean more towards tragedy and others towards comedy and some seem to lean more towards history. Face facts: even the tragedies have clowns or fools and jokes; even the comedies have very serious fights and quarrels. History plays such as Henry V have quite a few clowns such as Mistress Quickly, Bardolph, Pistol, Nym and yes I have a particular overview that would even add Fluellen as a ‘clown’ in that play.
My basic premise in finding a key into any of Shakespeare’s plays to consider the named protagonist as the head of the play and one has to think laterally to find the heart of the play that is the clown.
In a play such as King Lear with the fool by his side then it is rather simple to follow my suggestion. With a play such as Antony & Cleopatra (two named protagonists) one has to think out of the box. Antony is the head and Cleopatra is the heart and clown. She is a clown because she “Does what she wants, when she wants, however she wants”. Similarly with Romeo & Juliet though some would say The Nurse is the clown. She is a clown but she is not the heart of the play, Juliet is. She is wild, firey, stropping, pouting as any 14 year old Italian girl might be.
Now I come to this week’s viewings.
Suffice to say I enjoying seeing both productions even though they have their weaknesses.
If I intend to see a play or production (circus, dance, etc) I will not read a review beforehand. If I am not sure whether to see a production then I may seek a review or several to see if I want to invest my time and money. I learned long ago that if someone said “Don’t bother” I would try to go that night instead of buying into another person’s tastes. Thus I found that theatre practitioners are amongst the most unreliable of tastes as the professionals view through a variety of tinted glasses.
Below you will see a review that I only read this morning, after I had seen the show last night.
A friend asked me this morning what I thought of the King Lear production. Here is the reply:
The King and The Fool. An ideal couple and an ideal interpretation. An. One of infinite possibilities. That is what they chose this time with this director. Those were the highlights. There was great illuminators of the text. This was due to the director and designer’s staging and conceptualisation. The spacing. I.S.A.A.C.’s central training The Four Ariculations for Performance. The four Articulations this referes to are: body, space, time, time-space continuum. So one of the great elements of this King Lear was the director and designer’s use of space to illuminate the test.
Loved every moment of Glenda Jackson as King Lear. Loved the staging which brings great illumination to the text …. When Glenda is on stage. Loved the quirkey ecclectic design. Kent was excellent. Fool was excellent. Regan was pretty good, certainly a fab character interpretation. Edmund too was quite interesting an interpretatio. Most of the 2nd half of the show was way too slow. The play is a director’s nightmare in a way. I see that the first half of the show likely Act 1 – 3 needs a methodical taking of ones time whereas the last two acts have to move at-a-pace. Quite up tempo so that before we notice the ritual of play has ended, rather than meandering slowly as it did trying to make some point. I am SO glad I saw it, saw GLENDA, Fool, Kent, the staging. I am ‘researching’, studying, contemplating ‘What is Shakespeare’? I think it is ritual theatre first and foremost. A ritual of human drama and the subconscious. It is the perfect mix of Freud and Jung. I think I need to copy and paste those thoughts.
Here is one reviewe’s observations and biases. https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/nov/05/king-lear-review-glenda-jackson-old-vic