The Madness of King Lear

William Shakespeare
CW Productions (Australia) with C Theatre

King Lear, thought by many to be Shakespeare's greatest play has been attempted in many guises. This novel approach to the material from CW Productions has transported the text of Lear to a purgatorial spirit world where the wraiths of Lear and Fool step eternally through the fractured moments of the tragedy.

Performed as a mixture of physical theatre and traditional acting, Loefric Kingsford-Smith and Ira Seidendstein bring together a flitting and mercurial character piece which uses much of the original play to new effect.

Kingsford-Smith plays the ageing Lear with a competent familiarity never less than believable, while Seidendstein's Fool is a more complex and strange figure, constantly moving through martial-arts cata and dance and seeming to know more than he reveals. Curiously the staging of the play is minimalist but with the two actors dressed in Japanese kimonos for no obvious reason.

While it isn't clear whether Fool and Lear exist in the same space or whether this is supposed to be occurring within the head of Lear at the apex of his insanity, the performances are intense and fully committed. The trouble with the piece is that to anyone who doesn't know King Lear well, the result is probably an incomprehensible jumble of archaic dialogue and motion. Adding to this the musical choices throughout the play are often distracting despite echoing the action and dialogue in a clever fashion.

As a result some of the actor's dialogue is lost in the effect, making what is a interesting idea harder to appreciate and near impossible to recommend to anyone other than complete Shakespeare devotees.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan

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