Category Archives: Performance

King Lear: Theater Performance vs. Movie Adaptation

Last weekend, I finally got to see my first live play ever – King Lear at Max Bell Theater.

I found it thoroughly enjoyable (also it was more fun than the movie, for me at least). Here is a response on my experience with the play as opposed to the movie.

My first dilemma with the play was, well, on what I should be wearing. It was my first live play ever, and Shakespearean too – I wanted to be sophisticated (silly little whims, I know). On the other hand, with the movie, the first dilemma was: I have read the play, how long can I delay watching the movie until it is absolutely necessary?

Jokes aside (yes, those were jokes. Ha ha, very funny, Jayesha, please proceed), it was certainly not what I had expected. There were lighting directions and sound effects. It did aid in where the director had wanted to focus the scene on. However, everything else that was not directly under the spotlight was till open to interpretation and analyzing.  With the movie, the camera would zoom into a specific part of the act and force you to focus on that.

Furthermore, I felt that the actors that played the characters were more close to my own imagination when I first read the play. The costuming, however, were very similar in the movie and the play. King Lear is initially dressed in red: madness, passion, rage. The two sisters are dressed in darker colors: evil, cunning, deceitful, jealous. And  Cordelia is in lighter colors: pure, innocent, untarnished.

Moreover, I did notice the play was easier to follow along with, when compared to the movie. The lines were still powerfully delivered, but they were clear and carried more raw emotion. Perhaps, it was because the actors knew that this was now or never, as opposed to in a movie, when you have the liberty of redoing a scene if there is a light mishap.

I also found the play more captivating than the movie. The movie seemed to lag on and on, although they were the same lengths.

The Ticket 😀

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I know this is something I would like to make a part of my hobbies – live plays and reviews on them.


A Review on Stratford Festival’s King Lear

Since I was not able to make it to the March 7th screening at Cineplex Crowfoot, I drove all the way to the Scotiabank Theatre at Chinook last Sunday to see Stratford Festival’s King Lear performance. The almost 45-minute drive and the 3-hour duration of the film performance were well worth it because it was a great watch. Though it only seemed to cater to the tastes of elderly people (I was the youngest person in theatre), it was actually engaging and I did not feel like I had to endure watching it.

As the filmed performance begins, the stage at the centre caught my eye. I found the polygonal shape of the stage with the few steps surrounding it interesting. Then, Act 1 rolled in and I saw how the specific way the stage was built created a unique placement for the characters. It made the view more appealing and shows which character the viewers should focus on. I also found that the staging went accordingly with some of the implications in the play–like after Cordelia was stripped off of her crown and inheritance, and she stood by the steps the whole time, shows how she is no longer of importance to her father and that she is looked down upon. This unique stage set-up is not just for the aesthetic, it reflects some ideas in the play and gives a non-monotonous view, which other theatres whose stages simply face the audience cannot provide.

And since this performance was filmed, I found that the camera shots had an additional effect into giving various points of view as well as showing which characters to focus on. The main reason why I found this production more lively and interesting is the various camera shots, and not just filming the play in one angle. As well, it gave a more elaborate perception on how some parts of the play were interpreted. The tilted camera view when King Lear was under the rain, which goes so well in showing he’s going mad; the close-up shot with Cordelia and King Lear finally reuniting, really giving focus on the emotional scenes; and the low angle shot, such as when King Lear and Edgar as Poor Tom were speaking, implying how low they have reached because of people betraying them. It is hard to understand a Shakespeare play when you are witnessing the performance before you read the text, but Stratford Festival’s production made it not seem so.

Another thing that makes this play stand out is the lighting. I found it really effective in conveying the mood of various scenes, such as when Edmund was plotting and the lighting was dark, or when King Lear was satisfied with his daughters’ proclamation of love, where the lighting was bright. Just how the lighting worked in the play was really fascinating and eye-catching. The cleverly crafted lighting was also used when transitioning between scenes, and it was very effective and it made transitioning seamless.

The music, though usually faint, was cleverly used for transitioning and I like how the music is crushing and loud as the scene opens with the antagonists. I specifically liked the music when Edgar fights Edmund. The music remains subtle but still gives rise to suspense. If the scene was left with just the swords clattering, I might have fallen asleep.

This staged performance of King Lear might have been simple, not even using a lot of props, just a few ones. Yet, all these simple production techniques—staging, lighting, music, and cinematography—were all creatively conducted that the entire play is now added in My Favourite Film Performances list. Stratford Festival’s King Lear is also making me want to check out their other Shakespeare performances.


The Stratford Festival – King Lear

King Lear stands as one of Shakespeare’s most captivatingly tragic plays and watching the Stratford Festival’s performance of it last Saturday, March 7 was a real treat. I definitely enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would. Although the 2008 TV film was also well done, I found myself much more enthusiastic and staying with the storyline when I had audience queues to work off of and when the actors were more interactive with the audience. The atmosphere also played a major role in holding my attention – the dim lights, quiet, lack of distractions (like my phone!) and reactions of the audience to jokes and action made the experience more fulfilling and authentic than staring at my computer screen at home.

Prior to the film starting, a nice introduction played, showing the backstage area, actors, and other plays and behind-the-scenes glances into how the Stratford Festival put on their Shakespearean and other plays. Especially intriguing was the amount and quality of the costumes. Even the Queen was impressed with their rendition of her crown. The authenticity of their costumes and props is very impressive. What also probed my interest was the little questionnaire that was displayed. Did you know that King Lear introduced many new words to the English language? Dislocate, half-blooded and unaccommodated were all used first by Shakespeare in this play.

The play itself began cinematically. A feisty storm with flashy bolts of lightning started the introductory credits. I was worried it would not be true to the style of Shakespeare where props and effects were limited, but the actual play began with a dark stage and only some sound-effects. Once the actors began speaking their lines, I was assured that it would be a well-rounded performance.

I particularly appreciated the interpretation of characters. They differed significantly from the way some actors interpreted their characters in the 2008 TV film (although both interpretations could be deemed accurate portrayals and were well acted). In the 2008 film, I found Regan’s character to be quite discrete and timid, especially during the first scene; in Stratford’s version, her character spoke loudly and confidently. I also found Gonneril’s characterization to be more snooty and stuck-up, which complimented Regan’s character really well, and provided a great contrast near the end when they fight over Edmund. As well, Cordelia’s character was more sassy and rebellious in the 2008 version (at least at first), deliberately going against him to prove her true character and be legitimate. She was more emotional and trying to induce rationality into her father, though clearly outraged at her sisters’ false gushing over their father. Stratford’s Cordelia dealt with a more painful separation from her father than the 2008 character. Kent was also more involved – he speaks and plays a greater role. Edmund’s characterization was, if possible, even more slimy – I found I disliked him even more in this version due to the ability of the actor to portray that sickly suck-up attitude. I wasn’t disappointed with the acting of King Lear – Ian McKellan’s performance had a lot to live up to in my mind. Nevertheless, the actor was dramatic, humorous and had good timing. I was especially impressed during the scene with “Poor Tom” and Gloucester where he has his flower crown on and is sinking into madness – it brought out a mixture of sympathy and hilarity. Overall, all the actors spoke their lines as though they understood exactly what they were saying and were having actual conversations, with either other characters or were announcing to the audience themselves.

I would definitely recommend seeing King Lear (or any Shakespeare play) performed on a stage, either live or filmed from the audience as in the Stratford Festival’s performance. It is a great addition to the required watching of it as a movie done cinematically. I personally will plan on seeing the King Lear showing on April 7th!

-Emily George

My recording of Troilus + Cressida, 4.4.32-47

Inspired by the precedents of Clare and Sonja, I’ve posted my first reading to Soundcloud. I chose this one because it has beautiful language, and there are so many enjambments.

How about you? Pick a speech and curse like Thersites, pontificate like Ulysses, swoon like Troilus, or simper like Pandarus! Or choose your favourite sonnet and give us your best oral interpretation. Tag it with #engl205, and make sure you report it using the form.

Stratford’s King Lear

What a wonderful performance of King Lear. The whole film rounded out to about three hours, but it was so engaging that the time didn’t matter. The actors, the camera work, and the special effects held my attention the entire time. There was no time when the play seemed to be dragging on for too long, though I did appreciate the intermission. Filming the performance gave them the ability to focus in on certain characters in order to control who we looked at. One of the scenes that stood out to me the most for this was the one where King Lear is dividing up his land between his daughters. Unlike the Ian Mckellen version, there is more focus on Cordelia in the scene even before she says “Nothing”. While her sisters are making their speeches of love for their father, the camera cuts to Cordelia a few times and her reaction to what her father has asked them to do as well as her sisters’ words. She has a few asides that were not included in the Ian Mckellen version which gives her more importance earlier on in the scene and our anticipation of her own speech to her father is heightened. One part I especially liked was when King Lear takes Cordelia’s dowry, this act is emphasized even more by the king snatching the crown from her head, physically taking his favour from her.

Another difference between the Stratford Festival version and the Ian Mckellen version, is seen in Regan’s character. In the Mckellen version she has to be prodded by her husband to continue in her speech of love to her father instead of simply agreeing with what her sister says. This made it seem as though Regan’s actions are mostly caused by the positions and opinions of those around her. In the Stratford version, Regan walks right up to the king and puts her hands on his shoulders from behind as she makes her speech. There is no pause in her words, giving her the appearance of confidence as well as self-power instead of relying on others.

When it came to the effects, it was the lighting that caught my attention the most. Some scene changes were brought on merely by casting the back part of the stage in darkness and creating almost a second stage at the front for the next scene. This worked so that when the back part of the stage is lighted again they can return to the setting they had before without having to take it away and then put it back. The lighting was also used to create specific moods, especially in the case of Edmond. In one of the scenes he speaks to the crowd and the entire stage is darkened except for him, creating a more sinister feeling to his words.

The opening scene to the play was also different from the Mckellen version, as it started with a few homeless men wandering the stage before they’re scared off by a soldier. Perhaps they were using this as a foreshadowing to how the higher class, especially Edgar and Gloucester, end up falling to that level. One of the men also appears throughout the play as a sort of guide to Edgar. I believe this ties in quite nicely with the quote: “Tis the time’s plague, when madmen lead the blind” (4.1), spoken by Gloucester.

All in all it was a wonderful performance by Stratford and a pleasure to watch.

Stratford Festival’s King Lear

This weekend I got to see King Lear as put on by the Stratford Festival at Cineplex. I really, really enjoyed the performance and all throughout the film I was taking notes, as you can see is rather difficult in a dark theatre, but I had some things I could sort of make sense of, enough to help me write this response to it.

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I love movies and have a great love of cinematography, and knowing this performance to be a stage performance, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of cinematography, but I was really pleasantly surprised. There were incredibly varying shots and angles that were very well cut between; there was a great sense of fluidity. The framing could have been improved in some places but for the most part I was really impressed.

Being a performance on a stage, it was really interesting to see the audience in the background of some shots and to actually feel like you were watching a play in that theatre. The layout of the stage was very interesting, a much different shape than I am used to performing on or seeing, and it allowed for the audience to be seated on three of the four sides of the stage. Watching a film performance of this was made really interesting because the camera had so many places to be and actors could sidestep the traditional rule of never having your back to the audience, yet this didn’t affect a film audience’s viewing because the camera angles directed the focus properly. Sometimes some members of the audience would be unable to see a character except the back of them, but I think that this is a small sacrifice in order to offer a more three-dimensional experience. As well, the stage’s different levels allowed for the actors to play at different physical levels, such as when Edmund died on the stairs, and gave them different entrances and exits; there was a lot of variation and the blocking never got boring.

The special effects were something I really enjoyed and even before seeing the performance I was already excited and curious about seeing the storm sequence and wondering how it would be done – there was some fantastic lighting for lightning, it was very realistic, and great sound for thunder, and then fog machines were used and the actors played being in the rain very convincingly. Other sound effects, especially for the wounds, like the sound of Glocester’s eyes being gouged out, were very impressive. Theatre as an experience is immersive, and I think the power of it could be seen here. In the McKellan version, there were some lighting choices or backdrops that looked so bad that I was rolling my eyes, but not here. Though the staging and lighting was minimal at parts, it completely captured me and held my attention, concentrating it solely on the action and being free from distraction. It’s a bit difficult to explain the true power of theatre, and it didn’t get lost here even in a film version. Although there may have been less stuff like props and set pieces than in the TV movie version, I found this performance altogether more immersive and enjoyable than the McKellan.

One thing that I didn’t enjoy about the McKellan version that we watched was that the costumes were too varied in their time periods and styles; here, that problem was nonexistent. During the intermission there was a behind the scenes featurette from the Stratford Festival in which they detailed the costuming, dying, painting, wig and jewel making and it was so impressive, and that could definitely be seen on stage. I really enjoyed all the costumes and loved the little subtleties that added so much to the viewing. For instance, while in the opening scene, all of Lear’s daughters wore ruff collars on their dresses, only Cordelia’s was a full ruff, Goneril and Regan had ruffs similar to the other version, they were open and gave the impression of a serpent or lizard, which is what the sisters were compared to. The most impressive subtlety for me was in Lear – after dividing his kingdom, little by little you could see that some of his buttons were undone, his shirt was loose, his boots were not the same height – all these little details just showed how he was unravelling, and it was brilliantly done and really accentuated what was going on.

The makeup was absolutely fantastic. I’ve worked with fake blood before in school, a really cheap kind that’s mostly sugar and starts to lose the colour of blood after a few minutes, so I’m always really interested in how fake blood is done in movies and  theatre – it is so difficult to replicate because blood is cells – and the makeup here was fantastic. The blood of Gloucester was very convincing, from the blood that came out of his eyes and what stained his clothing, being the right kind of brown, but in particular, after his bandages were taken off, the empty eye sockets were really stunning and believable, even in the close up shots of him. The dirt and marks on characters like Edgar and Lear were also very good.

While the characters said the same lines in both versions, I thought that the differences in some of the directors’ and actors’ choices led to very different interpretations of the characters, and differences in my feelings towards the characters. This I felt most strongly in the characters of Goneril and Regan. I think that a great deal of this came from how the actresses looked. In the McKellan version, Goneril and Regan were very severe looking and looked much older, here, they didn’t look so scary, and so didn’t seem so evil. Goneril for me in particular did not seem evil, she actually seemed genuine in her pleading with Lear – this could just be how good her character was as an actress, but some of my belief in her evil intentions was lost. As the play progressed, she seemed more selfish than truly evil, and there is some room for debate about which she really is, or if she is more of one than the other. Even so, in this version, Regan seemed  to me to be the one who was more evil, more conniving and less likeable, and I thought it was very interesting to see her as more capable and independent, especially since in the McKellan version we saw Cornwall whispering to her, prodding her to speak more when she was telling Lear how much she loved him – that painted her as weak. Another interesting character interpretation was of Edgar – when he was first introduced, he was feverishly kissing a maid – something I didn’t expect from a character who in the end seemed so perfect. All in all, the interpretations and representations of the characters were delightfully surprising, even if they did differ from expectations.

The performances were truly remarkable and I felt a greater understanding of the plot, characters and dialogue after seeing this interpretation. The actor of Lear was magnificent, and I also really enjoyed Gloucester, Cordelia, and Edgar in particular. The performances were powerful and engaging and I really admired the acting choices made, from where the actors looked or didn’t look, their blocking and their speech. One thing that did bother me however was the delivery of asides and monologues. In particular, Edmund’s lines felt catered to the audience; he was reacting to their laughter and seemed to be speaking directly to them as if knowing that they were there, but I didn’t have this sense with any other character. It seemed to me that all the other characters were expressing their thoughts in their asides and monologues, but not to the audience, and you could see this in the way they reacted to the audience, the way they looked at them and the way they spoke. The lack of consistency was a bit annoying but on the whole I still think that the Stratford Festival did an incredible job in delivering a captivating play.

Differences between modern and elizabethan theatre!

Theatre has evolved in copious amounts since the Elizabethan era. Though there is huge contrast in the Elizabethan versus Modern theatre, modern theatre could not have evolved without it. The fact that modern play writs still reference Elizabethan tactics in production, proves that such an era was essential to modern day theatres evolution. Along such evolutions though, we have also left many traditions in the past. Such instances are evident in the following:

In Modern theatre, men and women are active in all theatre production. However back in Elizabethan era, women were not allowed such a career. Men were often looked at as superior over women, and therefore a career in such a public setting, was not open to a female cast. Men played male and female roles in all theatre productions, often with teenage boys playing the roles of women, due to their not fully developed stature and build.

Another difference between Elizabethan and Modern theatre is that Elizabethan theatre was much more audience interactive. The cheaper seats were right in front of the stage- usually where the poor stood. This created a very interactive theatre as audience members could reach out and touch actors, talk to them, and comment on the play. It is said that if the audience did not enjoy aspects of the play, that rotten food would be thrown. This is much different than modern day, where attending performing arts is that of a formal event.

In relation to the Elizabethan theatre being more interactive, Elizabethan stage was more open and accessible to the audience. Rather than in modern day, where stages are often risen above a sitting crowd, with enclosed walls that portray a frame like moving picture. The Elizabethan stage is close to the ground, the actors performing on a platform easily accessible by all audience members. Attendees in the Elizabethan era could stand on three sides of the platform.

Modern day theatre also has advanced technology compared to the Elizabethan era. In modern theatre, performances are enhanced by microphones, which enhance the audiences ability to hear and understand all the performers have to say. Stage lights also enhance the theatrical experience, as they can direct and redirect light for audience members to focus on certain aspects. The stage lights can also hide stage and prop changes. Music is also an enormous factor when it comes to performing. Although musicians were present, modern day theatre has access to sound effects, and any kind of music, at any given moment. The projection of sound from live musicians would also project more efficiently in modern theatre. The projection of sound would not be as effective as the theatres were open arenas, which allowed for background noise and a lack of amplifying of sound within the theatre.