I have missed live theatre. As such, King Lear's opening night (Monday 21 June 2021) at Stokesay Court evoked a heightened expectation. The show did not disappoint.
Beforehand, you should allow a little time to meander the private road of this stunning country house, and to cover the short walk from the car with your chair, coat and picnic. The site staff are extremely welcoming and be reassured that a take-away refreshments cabin and toilets are close at hand. In these times, it gives peace of mind to know there's plenty of space to maintain what social distance is appropriate.
As the longest day of the year waned, the production's 1980s iconography took the zenith. Bold red and black set design, power suits, Dynasty dresses, dosh in briefcases... every emblem of the greed-is-good decade blazed the stage. Power-grabs, violence, swindle and the disintegration of family and authority were given a Cockney voice in this production, and drew comparison with that TV soap Eastenders when it first dramatically splashed across our screens almost 40 years ago. A deft piece of choreography cued the collapse of Lear's world as one Smooth Criminal after another pursued their own advantage to the ruination of society.
A true ensemble piece, all brought their best to make this a very watchable show. There were tender moments, such as those between Gloucester (Mark Topping) and Lear (John Deeth) at the play's closing. The artful cunning of Edmund (Dan Wilby), Regan (Emily Summers) and Goneril (Livia King) brought savagery, in word and deed, cutting deep into the emotional heart and of course, the eyes. Amongst the human wreckage, Lear's Fool (Kevin Dewsbury) quipped the hollow humour of the 80s social commentary comedian with aplomb. With exceptional sound and lighting to boot, this is a fine piece of meaningful Shakespeare.
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