I attended the Theatre Calgary production of the play King Lear by William Shakespeare on April 1st, 2015. This production had different ways of representing the settings than the 2008 movie version of King Lear. Also, the acting was similar but presented different feelings in the two productions, and the lack of focus on each character in this production helped with understanding the plot more comprehensively.
The props in the Theatre Calgary production, with the obvious reason of space constraint, was much less elaborate than in the movie. Despite the restraint on the props, the scenes were represented well. The set was wooden, which could be easily used to represent both the castles of the lords and the king as well as the outside for scenes when King Lear is outside in the rain or when Gloucester “falls” down the cliff. For the insides, tables and chairs were placed. For the outside scenes, patches of tall grass were placed. The use of props in this play helped elicit my imagination and increased the quality of my experience of watching the play.
Also, the vocal acting, which was seen as very unnatural in the movie, was quite fitting and helped significantly with the story telling throughout the play. The lines were delivered clearly and yet with emotion. Additionally, the acting of the rage of King Lear in the first scene was also more natural. In the movie, the speeches gave off feelings of anger. Though it can make sense depending on the interpretation of the text, it was definitely not an interpretation that I agreed with. The Theatre Calgary production, however, showed the rage as being more about disappointment and disbelief than anger. I found that the accusations by Lear were less directed at Cordelia and more at her action. This conveyed the feeling that Lear still loves Cordelia, but in disbelief of her “betrayal,” makes decisions that he wouldn’t normally make. Overall, the interpretations of human emotion in the play was much more accurate and realistic than the movie.
Being able to see the entire stage helped with the story flow as well. For example, the first scene in the movie showed only parts of the stage, making it impossible to see what other characters are doing. In the play, however, it is possible to look at any character. By observing the reactions of other characters, like Cordelia’s face as Lear says that nothing will come of nothing, it is easier to identify with the characters and identify the mood of the scene. It was also possible to notice movements in the back that enhanced the overall quality of the story progression, like the creative methods of moving of actors on to stage. The rain scene had a lit-up background that made it so that the actors approaching the stage from the behind were visible only by their silhouette. This made it possible for the audience to see the characters approaching without disturbing the main actor speaking at the time and also giving it a depth perception.
The Theatre Calgary production of King Lear used other means of communicating ideas to the audience that were not present in the movie. For example, there were many steps on the stage, with the entire stage itself being wide stairs and the presence of the stairs and different levels in the wooden structure. The characters were placed in different heights compared to others each time according to their authority. In the first scene, King Lear was higher up than any other characters. However, as the play progressed on, he was placed lower than others from time to time. Also, the bastard, Edmund, was also placed higher in the earlier scenes than Edgar, Kent, and Gloucester.