Calendar Girl (kirilaw) wrote,
Calendar Girl

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On the NAC's King Lear

King Lear is probably one of my favourite Shakespeare plays -- it's certainly one that I know particularly well. So when I heard that the NAC was putting on an all-aboriginal production of it, of course I had to go.

It's a very interesting production. The staging is great -- the set design, the sound design, it all works really well. The transposition of the story to an Aboriginal Canada works pretty well, too, although you have to ignore quite a few place names to make it work (well, given how many Canadian places have ended up being named after European places, I suppose you could have a cliff of Dover...).

Unfortunately, the acting was a bit uneven. In some cases, I think it showed that these actors hadn't done a lot of Shakespeare. There was a bit too much reciting at places, breaking phrases at line breaks rather than naturally, and a few lines were flubbed or tripped over.

That said, some of the cast were truly great. I loved all three of the women, although Regan was probably my favourite -- she was magnificently sneaky. And Goneril pulled off that supreme confidence and arrogance brilliantly. The Fool was great, too -- really entertaining. Her Cordelia was perhaps a little bland in contrast, but then, Cordelia's always pretty bland, and she did actually have a bit of a spark in this production.

I was a fan of Edmund, too -- I love the role, and I was about to say that it's a hard role to play badly, but I do think it could be disastrous if an actor doesn't have the necessary charisma. That was not a problem here.

Kent was a little on the shaky side (not so much in his performance as in his delivery of the language), and the actor playing Edward was much more memorable as Poor Tom than as the rather forgettable Edward (Although again, Edward's pretty much a nonentity for the first half of the play, so that's not the actor's fault at all).

And unfortunately, August Schellenberg's Lear was uneven as well. There were times when he was great -- the mad scenes were well done, and the Cordelia death scene was really quite excellent. But the storm speech felt weak and rushed (which was really too bad, because with the staging and lighting it could have been brilliant), and he generally came across as more pathetic than tragic. That's a legitimate interpretation, I suppose, but I really do prefer a stronger Lear, at least initially, to make his deterioration more emotionally affecting.

All in all, it's a good production, and well worth seeing, although it doesn't quite reach the level to which it aspires.
Tags: culture, review

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