In commemoration of 400 years since Shakespeare’s death, Royal Exchange Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre present King Lear. The tragic story of ancient Britain in which King Lear decides to give up his crown and divide his power between his three daughters.
Don Warrington, known for his role in Death In Paradise, leads the cast as the formidable King Lear. After the RSC’s success with their African adaptation of Hamlet this season, Britain’s primary black-led touring company Talawa Theatre explore the cultural diversity that shapes the excellence of modern Shakespeare.
Michael Buffong’s production is stripped bare with a minimalistic medieval set. The bleak ancient walls and a central circular design is the shape of an eye which reflects the ongoing theme of blindness in the play, physical blindness and also the character’s inability to see situations and other character’s feelings. Flaming posts and long coats with fur are used to heighten the cold dark period, which highlight the gritty intensity of the play.
It’s not all doom and gloom as Buffong manages to find the humorous elements in the show and heighten them in order to lift the darkness of the play. Character’s such as Lear’s jester Fool played by Miltos Yerolemou explores humour as he delivers wise advice to Lear through a series of funny songs and rhymes. Similarly, Oswald is played exceptionally by Thomas Coombes whose camp approach to the role had the audience roaring with laughter.
Ultimately it is a play about loyalty and Lear’s three daughters challenge the idea of loyalty superbly. Each sister has an admirable strength, Cordelia (Pepter Lunkuse), Goneril (Rakie Ayola) and Regan (Debbie Korley) all exude supremacy. They’re period costumes are spectacularly designed to create an air of majestic confidence and superiority which is reflected in their dialogue.
Warrington provides a commanding performance as Lear who descends into complete madness, it is a highly relevant Shakespeare play that explores dementia and it’s affect on a man. Lear, being a highly powerful being, becomes lost in his own mind and struggles to maintain his dominance that he portrays in the opening scene. Warrington’s character progression is strong as he deteriorates slowly into a weak, vulnerable man.
Alfred Enoch (well known for Harry Potter and How To Get Away With Murder) gives an electric performance as Edgar. Opening act two, his characterisation is strong as he plays multiple roles due to being in disguise throughout the play. He manages to maintain a distinct shift in depiction of each role as he portrays each one cogently.
King Lear is a play about family, justice and the loss and gain of power, it is a well-crafted production with a stellar cast.
King Lear is on at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre until the 28th of May and tickets can be found here.
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