King Lear– Theatre Calgary Part 2

I absolutely adored seeing this play.  I found the performances outstanding, the story enthralling, and the setting and props the perfect balance between elaborate and simplistic.  The actors brought their characters to life with a new depth I hadn’t seen till that point, and used body language and facial expressions to explore character dynamic more than the dialogue itself.  Hopefully I’ll get to see more Shakespeare productions from Theatre Calgary in the future!

So, in collaboration with Hannah Anderson, I bring to you the rest of the transcript from the video blogs we recorded right after seeing the play!  Our navigational skills are questionable at best, and we’re tired as all get out, but we talked about some good ideas and thoughts we had about the play.  Hopefully they made sense.

King Lear Vlog: Transcript Part 2

In collaboration with Hannah Anderson

H: Hannah Anderson

K: Kate Anderson

The Drive Home

Our initial in-car reaction.  We're both a little tired and freaked out by this point.
Our initial in-car reaction. We’re both a little tired and freaked out by this point.

Together: [stare at each other]

[Moment of silence]

H/K: HOLY CRAP!

H: Okay, okay, well, wow, okay… That was…

K: We wanted blood but not that much blood.

H: So, we’re going to go through a recap of everything that happened in this play; it was really quite intense and…

K: Can I turn off the light?

H: Yah… the light’s going to go off, so you’re just going to be… [light turns off] look at that, my creepy face; hi!  Yah, you’re just going to hear us talking about the play and all the intricacies there…

K: Holy crap, man!

H: Oh my gosh, it was like…

K: Oh my gosh, don’t even, no…

H: I can’t even. It was really, really good.

K: It was great. I loved it!

H: So, we had a list of things we wanted to say about this play; it was pretty extensive. There were some… [Turns to Kate] Just so you know this is a one way so please don’t kill us. Yes, that way.

K: I know. We’re driving right now.

H: Yes, we’re navigating through downtown, and it’s snowing like crazy and … what was I going to say? I had a whole list, of… [screams].

K: [distantly] Sorry.

H: Okay, the light is green now! And that is a one way, okay! We’re good, guys!

[Kate laughing distantly]

H: We’re doing seriously quite well. Okay. Let’s look at my list. We have a big list of things we wanted to talk about.

K: Do I go left?

Hannah's notebook.
Hannah’s notebook.

H: Yes. Yes. We are going left. Right? Yes? I think so. We will figure this out. We are terrible navigators, and this is downtown. This’ll be interesting. So we wanted to talk about… [Holds up a notebook]. Alright, first off, setting. The was the stage was set up, there was a structure that looked a lot like rough, dark-wood scaffolding, and that served as the castle walls, it stood during the battle scenes…

K: It mostly represented the castle walls, but stayed set up for the entirety of the play. It was too bulky to take down.

H: But they moved the stairs around, and they had these grates that the put in front. So if it was a gate of a castle, they’d have the grates up, if they were inside, the grates would be off…

K: They had tapestries up if it was a scene indoors, as we previously mentioned.

H: Yes, they’d have the beautiful green and gold brocade up… was it brocade?  Probably.

K: No, probably not.  But we’ll just say its brocade because it sounds way classier than saying “Oh look, a piece of cloth that’s really cool looking.”

H: Exactly.  Anyway, there was a table at the beginning…

K: In the first scene, as Lear is dividing his kingdom, they’re in the middle of a banquet. So they’re sitting at a very long banquet table, piled high with goblets, pitchers, and plates, with cushioned chairs all around it…

H: And candles!  Cool candles!  They were fake candles, but they were cool looking!

K: Yes, there were candles…

H: And they had torches!  Later on they were carrying these awesome wicked torches that had actual fire! And it was really cool.

K: [glares] Anyway, in the following scene, they didn’t take the table off right away. When they moved the props for the scene to Goneril’s castle, they split the table into two, and put one on either side of the stage. So the big props never left the stage right away, but they were moved around and utilized very well. It was quite an efficient use of scenery.  [To Hannah]  What did you think of the bigger set pieces?

H: The bulky scenery…hmm.   I really liked the scaffolding; it was really cool.  It was a very interesting use of the space, because the characters could climb up different levels. Like in the beginning, King Lear comes down the stairs from the second balcony, and stays on them when he’s yelling at people, and it’s just a very interesting…power play, almost?  Like, saying who’s in control and what not.

K: Yes, height was often used to convey power, which I found a unique and interesting interpretation of the play as far as stage direction goes.

H: And… ugh. [Kate laughs] It’s too late for this.

K: And I don’t really have anything bad to say about this.

H: It got a standing ovation at the end!  Everyone was clapping and cheering, and I was almost asleep, because it’s… what time is it?

K: I don’t know.

H: I don’t even know, but I’m exhausted.

K: Let’s focus on the play, not your personal problems.

H: So, in the Maxbell theatre, they had the stage with the scaffolding set up, and the front of the stage is made of stairs. So actors were moving up and down the stairs, and there was a lot of stumbling about, and I thought people were going to fall, but they didn’t.

K: The couple of the exits were through the audience, so they’d run off the stage, around the back of the audience, and out through the doors.

H: It was an interesting way to include the audience in the action.

K: What with the stage stairs and the stairs on the scaffold, there was a lot for the actors to work with. But I actually found the scaffolding stairs a bit cumbersome in some instances, just because they used them during scenes that were supposed to be outside. They’d be on a moor, and characters would come on stage from the balcony and come down the stairs holding onto the rail. I don’t know if that was intentional, but it lessened my suspension of disbelief a bit because someone’s taking the stairs in the middle of a field.

H: True.

K: It was fine, I know they had to take advantage of whatever they could, but it was a little weird in context of the scene.

H: Yah, it was odd. Anyway, in the beginning of the play, everyone comes on the stage right away, and you get to see some interaction before the action actually starts. Like, we saw some silent interaction among Cordelia, Regan, and Goneril, and could automatically infer that the sisterly relationships are strained, at best. I mean, it was obvious that they did not like each other at all.

In which I attempt to commentate and drive at the same time
In which I attempt to commentate and drive at the same time

K: We were also able to look closely at the characters and how they presented themselves on stage. Just by looking at the way he acted, I could tell Albany seemed like a pretty solid guy. And I don’t know if this was intentional, but Cornwall had a facial expression like a rat. That sounds really mean, and I don’t know if that was an intentional casting choice, but it gave me more insight into the character.

H: The casting choice for Edmund was interesting too, because he was the only person in the play who was not white. It added another layer of complexity onto the bastard problem. But his appearance didn’t matter too much, but his bearing, the way he walked onto the stage, tells you automatically so much about his character. The way he nonverbally reacts when his dad’s talking to Kent conveys how unenthused he is about being called a bastard regularly. He just looks so upset that his dad thinks he’s less than, and you kind of feel for him for a little bit. And then you get to his monologues and you realize he’s just conniving!

K: But his reactions were phenomenal! I was watching him while Gloucester was speaking, and his facial expressions as people are talking over him are fantastic! There’s so much you can infer about his character just by looking at him when other people are talking. And especially when he’s in the middle of tricking someone, he just has this look of child-like glee on his face, and it is so fun to see!

H: Yes, that was the best. In the beginning of the play, Cordelia’s facial expressions were on point too! I was watching her primarily in that scene, and as Lear’s talking about the kingdom and her sisters are buttering him up, you can immediately tell what she’s thinking. They didn’t even need to do the asides, I don’t think, because her expressions conveyed everything.

K: It is part of the play.

H: Yah, it is part of the play, so that was a good call from the director. Moving back to Edmund’s awesome facial expressions. When Edmund’s giving his dad the letter that is supposedly from his bro, Edgar, and Gloucester is reading this letter, Edmund looks just so pleased with himself. I mean, he looked like a little kid in a candy shop!

K: He was practically jumping up and down with glee! Actually, he nearly did…

H: Yah, after Gloucester left the stage, he basically did a little jazz hands and leapt into the air, like “Guess what I did, guys!”

K: “I am awesome!”

H: Precisely. The stage directions, overall, were very well done.

K: The sounds were also phenomenal, too.

H: Yah, the beginning choral music that preceded the play gave me full out shivers, and totally sucked you in to the tragedy and the world of the play.

K: It almost echoed the animal like nature of the play, and how everyone’s going to kill each other.

H: The rain and lightning sounds later on were fantastic too, and incredibly well timed. The sounds, especially the lightening strikes, were so effective in highlighting important parts of the play, and were really powerful. They also used fog during the storm, which helped to set the tone.

K: They used sound and body language really well to convey the weather and the rain, I thought. The actors actually looked like they were drenched even when no water was used at all. You could actually see rain falling on the characters when there really wasn’t. The backdrop and lights also gave the stage a sense of depth, like there was more going on then what was being focused on in centre stage.

H: The stage was a lot deeper than met the eye… The cool thing about the scaffolding is that you could see through it. Like in the second scene, when Regan and Goneril are talking to each other, you can see France and Cordelia leaving Lear’s castle from behind the scaffolding, which was pretty cool.

K: Yah, you saw them leave as other people were talking, and just seeing them walk out was like “No, Cordelia, come back!” That was an interesting interpretation, and it didn’t really occur to me that they could do something like that. But it worked really well.

H: They also should Edgar being chased about. Like people with torches running about on stage, like “Edgar, you can’t hide, we’re going to find you!” And he actually climbed up to the tiny, third balcony and… stripped. Essentially.

K: [laughs] That was an interesting call on the director’s part.

H: And I guess there was a little mud up there too, in a jar, or something, so he smeared mud all over himself… So that was an interesting bit.

We arrive home, but keep talking.  'Cause we consider Shakespeare more important than sleep, apparently.
We arrive home, but keep talking. ‘Cause we consider Shakespeare more important than sleep, apparently.

K: Did that take away from it for you?

H: Um, no. It actually… It enhanced it. He was a muscular dude, let’s just leave it at that.

K: [stares at Hannah]

H: [coughs awkwardly]

H: The other bit was…in the end scene… it was so sad, I cried! The actor who played Lear… was just so phenomenal, alternating between happy, like “Oh, look it, she’s so beautiful,” and crying that she was dead and everyone was a traitor for not saving her.

K: He was mad, by that point, and that was conveyed fantastically.

H: And in that scene as well, Cordelia actually had make-up on her neck to look like bruises from a rope, ‘cause she had been hanged, just like fool in the BBC version, and that was an interesting parallel… wait, did that even happen?

K: No, and that sort of confused me a little bit. In the BBC version, he got hanged, onstage, and I thought that was a really good way to knock him out, but in this version…

H: He just walked off the stage.

K: Yah, he just handed his stuff to Edgar and walked off the stage. I mean, do you have any reason to walk off the stage? I didn’t understand it. Did he die? Did he just take a vacation? Did he go to Hawaii or something? I mean, this was probably truer to what would have happened in an original Shakespearian production, but I preferred the Royal Shakespeare Company’s interpretation better.

H: Anyway, Cornelia’s make-up looked exactly like a rope-bruise, and it was incredibly done.

K: Well, we’re home now, so we’ll get to the infamous eye scene in a minute.

H: Yes, once we get out of this car and get inside, we’ll talk some more. See you in a minute.

K: Bye, guys!

Late Night PJ Talk 

Forget sleep...let's talk about King Lear some more!
Forget sleep…let’s talk about King Lear some more!

H: It’s really late.

K: It is quite late, yah.

H: I wanna go to bed now.

K: But first, more Shakespeare.

H: Yes. So, before we go to bed, we wanted to talk quickly about a couple of things… first off Cordelia.  When we first see Cordelia in the second half, she comes on stage in chain mail.

K: She has a sword!

H: And she’s fighting with France, like, equality! Yes!

K: It was a good, empowering sort of costuming decision.

H: Cordelia was doing her own thing.

K: It gave her a little more character, and little more depth. Like, in the BBC version, she’s just wandering around in a cape, doing little to nothing.

H: In this one, she’s ready to fight!

K: That was sort of annoying later, and a bit contradictory, ‘cause they walked in after the battle, and Lear and Cordelia were prisoners, but her sword was still hanging off her belt.

H: Really?

K: Yah, she still had her sword with her!

H: What? Why didn’t she kill someone?

K: I know, right? I was, like, “Draw it and kill someone!”

H: Cordelia, you missed a golden opportunity.

K: Yah, you could have saved so many lives if you had just killed Edmund right then and there. And all your problems would have been solved.

H: She may have still died though.

We're both too tired for this level of philosophical debate.
We’re both too tired for this level of philosophical debate.

[They share a thoughtful look]

K: Yah, she might have.

H: Anyway, she had her own powerful character, and it was cool.

K: You wanna say anything about the eye bit?

H: Right. There was so much blood.

In which I relive getting freaked out, and Hannah's trauma shows.
We both had a touch of PTSD from the Gloucester eye number.  Yah!

K: We said we wanted blood, we said if we didn’t see blood we’d be disappointed, but… that was too much blood. I couldn’t actually watch it; I had to look away.

H: First of all, they tied him to a post.  Which was worrying.  And then Cornwall stabbed out the first eye…and there was so much blood.  They did some sort of slight of hand, and the make-up was put on in seconds.

K: The effects for that were freakily good.  His eye went black and bloody right away.

H: And for the next one, Cornwall pulled Gloucester’s eye out—we actually saw that—he held it for a while, and then he dropped it.  And then he stepped on it!

K: It was disgusting!  He just shoved his hand in there and… [flails hand around wildly] AHH no no no no…

H: It looked so real! There were two older women beside us who basically lost their minds. [Kate laughs] As soon as the eyeball dropped, they just lost it.  And it was hilarious.

K: Anyway, it was quite a dramatic adaptation with lots of elaborate choices in costumes, scenery, and effects—except for the fight scenes, for the most part. The eye scene, especially, was amazingly done. The actors were fantastic, and allowed me to see past the elaborateness of the props and really focus on character dynamics.

H: I thought it was really well done. The actors turned the poetry in prose very well, making the play easy to understand even if you hadn’t seen Shakespeare before. Character interpretations were also fantastic. Lear was awesome; Cornelia just conveyed so much strength of character, even though she wasn’t on stage as much… Edmund was a conniving little cuss…

K: He was… he was just so happy about it. He was evil and happy about it. And besides the monologues, it was conveyed almost entirely through body language while other people were on stage.

We both enjoyed Edmund's character.  Probably a bit too much.
We both enjoyed Edmund’s character. Probably a bit too much.

H: It was a good play. Would you give it a number rating?

K: No. Not really. I thought it was well interpreted, combining elaborate props and incredible performances to create an engrossing play.

H: I would agree. I really enjoyed going.

K: Anyway, that’s all for our King Lear… I don’t know what to call this.

H: We’ll try to get this posted… soon?  Yes.

K: [muttering] I need to go to bed now.

H: [muttering] Me too.  Anyway.

Together: Bye!

And thus, any hope of becoming Shakespearean focused YouTubers we had promptly fizzled out and died.

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