Big Finish’s first venture into the world of Shakespeare was the hugely successful adaptation of Hamlet earlier in the year. It almost seems impossible, but the team have matched (and in some cases surpassed) that effort with King Lear.
Shakespeare’s famous tragedy is brought to life both in front of and behind the microphone. Director Barnaby Edwards has assembled an outstanding range of actors, many of whom are experienced in this and many other Shakespearean plays, and he brings out the best in them all. Nicholas Pegg has adapted the lengthy script well for the medium with only a few minor alterations and cuts throughout.
Of course, the play hinges on the performance of the lead role, and in this Big Finish has succeeded masterfully. Legendary British actor David Warner (fresh from live performances in the UK) brings an enormous amount of experience, pathos and depth to the role. His Lear is befuddled but by no means wimpy. From his arrogant posturing at the start to the realisation of what he has done at the , you truly believe this a tortured soul. His three daughters are played to perfection by Louise Jameson (Goneril), Lisa Bowerman (Regan) and Finty Williams (Cordelia). Both Jameson and Bowerman are pure venom and spite in their interpretations whilst Williams makes the most of her brief time to bring light to an otherwise dark play.
Raymond Coulthard, as the slippery Edmund, is perfectly matched against the defamed Edgar (played with relish by Gwilym Lee). Mike Grady is a suitably macbre Fool and Tony Millan’s journey as Gloucester is absolutely heartbreaking. The rest of the supporting actors are perfectly cast and help bring this vision of the play to life.
Howard Carter is to be praised for his outstanding sound design and musical score which helps keep the action flowing and atmospheric.
As a bonus, there is some 20 minutes of interviews with the cast and crew to help explain the production process further.
I truly hope Big Finish continue to make these adaptations. The standard for them is so high they could easily surpass the myriad of audio adaptations that are around. These are fantastic for students and scholars alike and demand repeated listening.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 10
Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: October 2017
RRP: $29 CD, $15 Digital Download