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Monday, September 8, 2014

Shakespeare's Globe King Lear On Tour

Yesterday I went to see Shakespeare's Globe touring production of King Lear at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.

It was a great production. If you are anywhere near Washington, you should go see it. It runs through September 21.

click on this photo for a video of the production

Here is the information for tickets:

Also, here is a link to see where and when it is playing near you:

I am not a professional theatre critic, but I do want to share some of my thoughts with you.

This is the fourth production of King Lear I have seen this year, and each one stands out in different ways.

This might be my favorite of them all, because of the fact that it was a lean production with a small cast (only 8 actors), and it was full of energy. 

It also made me think that this is very close to what Shakespeare's own tours of England would have been like in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.

Also, it was the only one that ran under 3 hours!

This was as professional a cast as I have ever seen, and the actors doubled and tripled parts with such ease, all while keeping the play moving at the briskest pace I can imagine.

There was one brilliantly funny moment when Edmund is introduced to Oswald -- and it's the same actor! Hilarious!

As familiar as I am with the play, there were surprises everywhere. There were unexpected musical interludes, songs, and frequent musical cues -- all performed by the actors!

When Edgar and Edmund duel, I have rarely seen a swordfight so thrilling -- and when their swords first clashed, sparks actually flew from the prop swords!

Edmund v. Edgar

I loved the fact that they turned up the house lights in order for them to see the audience. They are used to performing in open air theatres/stages, and they obviously wanted to see and connect with their audience. 

Even while I was far from the stage, there was a moment when Joseph Marcell was clearly looking right at me, for what seemed like forever, but was probably more like 5 seconds. It was unnerving, and it made me feel a little ashamed, like I was an unwelcome spectator to his descent into madness.

The cast overall is superb, and they clearly enjoy working together. Each of them gets some juicy moment or two, and they obviously relish in these moments.

It's hard to single out any of them, they are all so good, and such masters of what they are doing.

Joseph Marcell plays King Lear. He has done quite a lot of theatre and Shakespeare, but he is probably best known for his role as the Butler on TV's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, with Will Smith.

He is the only actor I have seen who convinced me that he was a king. His behaviour, his body language, all projected a regal bearing that I have never seen before. Most of us in our daily lives never meet a monarch, and watching Mr. Marcell is as close an opportunity as we might have.

So, as the play progresses, and he descends into madness, it is all the more horrible to see him brought so low.

Also, Mr. Marcell has a wonderful voice which he uses to maximum effect. When he is in command of himself, he is hard and stern. When he is going mad, his voice turns almost inward and becomes so pitiful.

He is also the first Lear I have seen who clearly demonstrates madness from the very beginning of the play. Often, actors just play Lear as angry and irritable at the beginning, but Mr. Marcell plays a king whose madness is a progression from bad to worse.

Do yourself a favor and go see this production. You won't want to miss it!


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