The Arch, Holden Street Theatres, Holden Street, Hindmarsh
Reviewed Monday February 22nd 2010 (See Fringe guide for dates, times, etc.)
Presented by So What? Productions.
Bookings: Fringetix & Venuetix outlets
Shakespeare’s tragedy recounts the tale of King Lear, old and tired, who decides to pass on his kingdom to his three daughters, apportioning it according to how much each loves him. He expects that, in exhange, they will still accord him all of the respect that a King demands and that they will take care of him for the rest of his life. He does not count on the true nature of Gonerill and Regan, the two eldest daughters. When he asks each daughter to describe the level of her love for him these two try to outdo one another in their fawning, and each are promised a sizeable portion of the kingdom. His youngest and most beloved daughter, Cordelia, is honest about the love she feels for him and he is furious, cutting her off. What follows is a long string of devious and bloodthirsty plotting and machinations in which, at the end few are found loyal to the King, the truest being Cordelia and the banished Earl of Kent. By the end, most of those around Lear are dead, including his dearest daughter, Cordelia.
This production is trimmed to a two hour, one act version and features a young cast, students from the Sydney University Dramatic Society, under the direction of Christopher Hay. This, in itself, is problematic as young actors lack both the theatrical and personal maturity to fully understand and relate to a man of considerable age, tired and becoming mentally unstable, sufficiently to create a fully developed and believable characterisation. Although these young actors have talent and are enthusiastic this alone is not enough to overcome this and it is exacerbated by some roles changing gender.
That said, there are some notable performances, with Stephen Sharpe in the title role doing a fine job in spite of the difficulties presented by playing somebody several times his own age. Urszula Czarnota also does a good job in the role of the Earl of Kent and Sean Ohlendorf’s Edgar is a standout performance.
There are a few problems with projection and diction at times, perhaps because dialogue often seems rushed, presumably to keep the performance within the allotted time, and the aborted ending, with the cast dropping character and explaining what would have followed was frustrating.
Some rewarding moments and considerable potential but I would have preferred to spend the extra time to see the entire work.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, GLAM Adelaide Arts Editor.