I attended Theatre Calgary’s performance of King Lear last week and it was fantastic! I didn’t even feel like falling asleep once! I was glad that I had seen the Ian McKellen movie before hand so that I could really appreciate how incredible the live theatre version was.
I found the live version much easier to follow because even though the actors weren’t mic’d their voices were clearer than the film version and I found their enunciation to be better than the Royal Shakespeare Company’s version… Way to go Calgary!
I was astounded by the direction of the play. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a theatre performance, I’d forgotten how clever directors can be with sets, props and stage directions. I found that the settings were much clearer in the stage version than in the movie. While I was watching the movie, I was constantly confused as to where the scene was supposed to be taking place. The Theatre Calgary version used the balcony and a movable staircase in various compositions to clearly show that the setting had moved to another house or to outside.
The casting was outstanding. It was quite similar to the Royal Shakespeare’s casting, one noticeable difference to me was that Cordelia was a brunette and not a blond. Being blond seemed like an important facet of her character since she was supposed to be the most fair and the most virtuous, but if I hadn’t seen the Royal Shakespeare production I don’t think i would have questioned the casting choice. The other difference was that Edmund wasn’t caucasian like his father, but since Edmund is a bastard the disparity in race doesn’t distract from his performance because there’s nothing to say that Edmund’s mother wasn’t of a different race. Also his performance was impeccable, so I was a big fan of the casting choice.
I found that the ability for my eye to wander around the set kept me more engaged during some of the longer monologues and ranting that happens during the play. When I was watching the movie, there wasn’t any liberty for my eye and mind to wander because I was limited to what the director chose to put into a given scene. On stage, there’s so much to see and engage with that compliments the language- the set, the other characters on stage, the reactions of the other audience members to the play-that it kept the performance alive. Whereas, I found that the Royal Shakespeare company’s performance started to fade near the end because the sets and language became too monotonous.
Overall the Theatre Calgary performance of King Lear was much more engaging than the movie and the added excitement of being in a theatre that is modelled after the globe theatre made the experience all the more fun!