KING LEAR. Written by William Shakespeare. Directed by Guy De Lancey, with Graham Weir, Jeroen Kranenburg, Nicholas Pauling, Adam Neill, Adrian Collins, Adrian Galley, Darren Arraujo, Pierre Malherbe, Shaun Acker, Matthew Alves, Kim Kerfoot, Nicholas Dallas, Juliana Venter, Emily Child, Deborah Vieyra, John Skotnes and Gerhard Rasch. Lighting Design by Guy de Lancey. Wardrobe by Leila Anderson and Alicia McCormick. At the Intimate Theatre, Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm until May 5. ASTRID STARK reviews
A CONCOCTION of greed, lust for power, and anarchy, lead to madness and murder in one of the Bard’s most tragic of tragedies. King Lear, Graham Weir, is ready to hand over his kingdom to his three daughters, but petulantly forces the three to declare, and prove, their unwavering love and devotion to him.
The apple of his eye, Cordelia, Deborah Vieyra, refuses to give in to her father’s request, which sets off a series of events leading to a horrendous and inevitable tragedy.
Guy de Lancey’s direction of this bleak affair hits straight into the eye of the abyss, and it stays there, with only Nicholas Pauling’s Fool occasionally lifting it out for sporadic bursts of comic relief.
Weir’s character starts off in the play as the confident, if already a bit dotty, retiring king. However, when his beloved Cordelia does not give in to his whim, he literally throws his toys out of the cot in a very un-kingly fashion. His disbelief turns to anger and rage.
Madness starts seeping in as his two venomous daughters, Goneril, Juliana Venter, and Regan, Emily Child, turn on him as soon as they inherit their wealth.
“Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend, More hideous, when thou show’st thee in a child, Than the sea-monster,” Lear laments as he realises he favoured the two greedy sisters over the honest Cordelia and her servant Kent, Adrian Galley.
Kent appears to be the last honest man standing and Galley delivers a fine performance.
Venter and Child’s evil Goneril and Regan are chillingly effective as the wicked manipulating older sisters. Their final demise is truly horrid to behold.
There are many sub-plots creeping in from all angles to add to the drama. Edmund, Adrian Collins, is the delightfully despicable and evil manipulating bastard son of Gloucester, Jeroen Kranenburg who lusts after power.
Edmund plots a smear campaign against Gloucester’s son in a bid for ultimate power. Edmund and his cronies are perhaps representative of the New World’s youthful disregard for respect and hard work in favour of greed, instant gratification, and a hunger for power.
While all the actors in King Lear are clearly passionate, there were a few elements of the play that were disturbing. The entire floor stage floor is covered in stark white gravel which, when combined with the minimalistic lighting and black surrounding walls and roof, gave the striking and surreal appearance of a cold wasteland – the abyss – perhaps reflective of the king’s inner turmoil. Visually it is very effective, however whenever an actor crossed the stage the gravel made quite a noise which became distracting at times when it overpowered the actors’ voices.
The smoke machine’s rapid bursts were equally distracting at times and it even appeared to disturb some of the actors on stage.
At times the actors’ voices did not quite carry across the theatre, and their words became a little incoherent. All the elements and performances considered, Guy de Lancey manages to capture the bleakness and despair of the play very well and he clearly knows how to coax his actors into fearless performances. Weir makes a good Lear in that he evokes a plethora of emotions in us as he wrangles with himself, those around him, and ultimately, his sanity.
l The Mechanicals’ Die Rebellie van Lafras Verwey recently won the Fleur du Cap Awards’ People’s Choice Award, as well as Best Director (Albert Maritz) and Best Actor (Carel Nel), for the same play.