Every year, I routinely book tickets for almost every show at Shakespeare’s Globe. This year, one of these was King Lear. Unlike the majority of the shows, this is a touring production and was only going to be at the Globe for a week, so I made sure to book my ticket in plenty of time.
Directed by Bill Buckhurst and designed by Jonathan Fensom, the production sees the cast wearing 1940s-inspired outfits over which they place more traditional robes and costumes as required. I’m not sure what the significance of the 1940s connection is, but the other costumes came in handy to differentiate between separate characters played by the same person. Most of the cast took on more than one role, a demanding feat which by and large they performed with aplomb.
I love the Globe, but this wasn’t one of the best things I’ve seen in the space. I thought the central plot between Lear and his daughters seemed to drag, and didn’t engage me as much as it has done in the past. In fact, I preferred the subplot involving the two sons of the Duke of Gloucester, a worrying sign. The production brought out the comedy in the play – something which the Globe does very well – but this was often at the expense of the tragedy.
In the beginning, I wasn’t convinced by Joseph Marcell’s performance as Lear. However, as the play went on I felt that he grew into the role, and his final scenes in particular were memorable and moving. Bethan Cullinane made a good Cordelia, but I found her Fool intensely annoying, though I found the decision to cast the same actor as both Cordelia and the Fool a fascinating one. A standout performance came from Matthew Romain as Edgar, while Oliver Boot was also enjoyable as his brother Edmund, portrayed in this production as a book-loving geek.
I was mildly disappointed by this production: I did start to feel a little bored by the end, although my desire to go home may have been prompted by the hailstones engulfing the pit as much as the performance itself. However, there are several good things about the production, so I’m not willing to write it off completely.