King Lear. There are no words. It was a privilege to see this production.
I saw Lear years ago with sir Derek Jacobi and it was amazing. But it couldn’t hold a candle to the sheer brilliance of Colm Feore. His slow descent into madness is horrifyingly breathtaking. His ascetic face is drawn with mourning. His movements restricted by age and desperation. It’s amazing.
The story goes back to an old I think Scottish fairy tale about a king with three daughters who wants to know how much they love him. His first daughter says: I love you like the clothes I wear. And as she is wearing silk and satin he is happy. The second daughter tries to trump her sister and tells him, she loves him like jewellery. And he is happy. The youngest though says I love you like salt. She is banned from court. But at the next banquet her friend the cook serves everything without salt and the king realises his mistake and takes his daughter back.
That it doesn’t happen quite that way with Shakespeare shouldn’t come as a surprise…
With minimalist stage design in order to focus on the actors Shakespeare’s world unfurls and with every scene shows us another layer of tragic events taking place because of the two daughters’ hunger for power. Mike Shara as Cornwall displays a disconcerting level of almost psychotic ruthlessness that accumulates in the blinding of Gloucester on stage in full view of the startled audience. Scott Wentworth certainly owns the scene. At that point the king, stripped of his influence, his men, his friends, finally of his possessions and at last of his mind is a mere shadow, raging against the elements. The French army is too late, they lose a fight they were never supposed to win and Cordelia and Lear are captured.
In a last strike before he dies himself Cornwall orders the murder of Cordelia. That last scene, Lear coming onstage with his dead daughter in his arms is probably the most intense depiction of grief I ever saw.
If you see but one show this Stratford season it must be this.