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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at Shakespeare’s Globe


  David Calder/PH: John Haynes

What to do with Lear? It's a question as vexed for every actor and director intimidated by Shakespeare's weightiest tragedy as it is for the three daughters of the pagan king who are faced with sorting out his botched retirement. At Shakespeare's Globe director Dominic Dromgoole opts for a brisk, robust revival that installs a troubled, introverted Lear at the centre of the play in the shape of veteran David Calder.

Calder's Lear is a melancholy enigma - the morose architect of his catastrophic and disproportionate downfall. Although he doesn't always command the stage with his inward musings, his haunted demeanour, seemingly terrified of death and madness does command sympathy. Oddly though, Calder often seems distant from the rest of the cast, particularly the gymnastic Danny Lee Wynter who plays his beloved Fool.

There are other problems too. The floodlit heath scenes when the elderly Lear is cast out into the stormy night after alienating his daughters, lack atmospheric portent. Also missing is the sense of Lear descending into his own tumultuous inner darkness. In addition, the first half is an endurance test for the five pound groundlings who are forced to stand for nearly two hours before the interval.

Still there is plenty to keep the groundlings distracted as the cast rage around Calder's introspection. Best of all Sally Bretton and Kellie Bright as his two wicked daughters who turn into rapacious wolves vying for the sexual attentions of Daniel Hawksford's sneering, ambitious bastard, Edmund. With so much vigorous characterization across the boards, Dromgoole's production is creditably engaging and avoids the overly respectful constipation that dogs many, lesser Lears.


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