So last weekend on Saturday, April 4th I had gone to see King Lear at Theatre Calgary, and my what an experience. It was my first time seeing a Shakespeare play live, and my goodness, the production was excellent. I won’t elaborate too much since many others on the blog have posted similar thoughts on the play.
I will say though that, after watching the 2008 film with Ian McKellen, I somehow feel that this play did a better job telling a more cohesive story. The finer focus on the family relations, both in Lear’s family as well as between Gloucester and his sons, made the story all the more touching and dramatic. I will also say I came into the play thinking that the props and costumes would be minimal, with a focus on performance. Much to my surprise, I found the props to be fantastic, and the stage was flexible enough to convincingly transform into a new setting both efficiently and effectively. Of course the performances were also great, and every performer was able to not only hold their own, but contribute to the emotional weight of the story.
One of the scenes that stood out most to me was the one were Gloucester gets his eyes gouged out. The live visual effects were just gripping, with blood gushing out, and included the Duke of Cornwall dropping a fleshy prop eye on the ground and stepping on it. But perhaps my most favorite scenes were the ones that included the live sword battles, particularly when Edmund was on screen. I find these are quite effective and worth including in a production whenever possible since they really good at holding an audiences attention and provide a nice break from the more speech-y parts, keeping the audience interested and entertained. Obviously the best of these was the final showdown between Edmund and Edgar. I never though I could experience the same epic blockbuster action feeling from a live play, but I’m sure many would agree this was as good as it gets on stage.
If you haven’t seen it yet and are still thinking about it, I definitely recommend it.
Helpful version as it contains subtitles for retention and comprehension of material not covered in class. A great comedy to pair with Twelfth Night, and resourceful for unpacking themes within the pastoral mode.
To Kill Myself – Rape of Lucrece
Wonderfully artistic visioning from The Royal Shakespeare Company.
Act 3, Scene 2 – The Winter’s Tale
Perhaps for me the standout example of a well spoken, educated, strong woman in all the texts covered this semester. A great reminder of our lectures covering the power and importance of words.
Romeo and Juliet – Onscreen footage
Everyone’s classic introduction to Shakespeare. I was reminded heavily of the play when reading The genres of Shakespeare’s plays, by Susan Snyder as she talks in depth about the reflection of youth in Shakespeare’s works. Characters become representations of the time period and a refection of society. This is set up immediately in Romeo and Juliet’s prologue, “Two households, both alike in dignity|In fair Verona, where we lay our scene|From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,|where civil blood makes civil hands unclean” (1.Pro.1-3).
Act 5, Scene 3 – King Lear
Continuing the consideration of genre, King Lear is a great example of ego and pride leading to a tragic end (which cannot be evaded). This is a very emotionally powerful clip displaying the effects of time within a tragedy.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
And thus, any hope of becoming Shakespearean focused YouTubers we had promptly fizzled out and died.
As this was my first live Shakespeare performance, I went into this experience slightly unsure about what to expect. I’d seen clips on YouTube of the Globe, and movies of The Royal Shakespeare Company, but I had not actually watched a live production. Therefore I did not know whether the staging would be traditional, like the Globe, or more contemporary, like the Victorian era King Lear.
Kate and I went to an evening performance. It was all very mature; we drove down ourselves, parked like adults, found the theatre, wore dresses and makeup. We were very classy.
The Theatre Calgary performance stayed truer to the time period of the actual play than I had originally expected. The costumes were incredible, and the setting was simplistic, which worked very well because it both conveyed the fairly specific settings with little effort while also allowing the actors to focus on their characters and interactions without the use of too many props. It was a relatively small cast, so some actors played multiple characters, which was very successful even though the actors were fairly recognizable. All in all, it was a beautiful done performance, 10/10, would recommend.
Our videos can’t be uploaded onto the blog, due to the 39 MB limit on media uploads, so today I typed up 3/5 of the video dialogue. Kate will post the rest because they are ridiculously long. I just transcripted everything we said in the videos. Forgive the choppy sentence structure and grammar, as we can write far better than we can speak.
And now, without further ado, here is the transcript of three out of five parts of our vlog!
King Lear Vlog: Transcript
In collaboration with Kate Anderson
H: Hannah Anderson
K: Kate Anderson
H: On our way to see King Lear… The roads are bad… well, not really bad, but it’s raining. Or snowing, or something, I don’t really know.
K: It’s snowing, it’s slightly snowing.
H: Our driver, for this evening. [Pans to Kate]
K: Hi. Hello!
[Pans to a bright green street sign: 9th Avenue]
H: Look at this! We’re on ninth! Finally, okay…
K: [distantly] where am I going?
K: Why is it 50? Why is it 50 along here?
H: I don’t know. I don’t know, just go with it, just go with it…
[The camera moves to look out the window, filming other vehicles]
H: Cars. Stuff.
K: You are the worst commentator ever.
H: I am the worst commentator in the world!
H: What do we have down here? [Shot of hand reaching down to grab a bag] We have… a bag. We have… Kate’s purse… with… there’re the tickets in there!
[Pulls out tickets]
H: tickets. Yay.
K: [distantly] Maybe you should actually talk about Shakespeare and stuff. Just a thought.
[H ignores her]
H: So we’re on our way! Look at that! The EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts! Where the Maxbell Theatre is! Where we’re going to see King Lear! King Lear, yay!
[Pans out to lots of parked cars]
H: Oh dear, look at all this!
[Camera turns to the side of the road, where there is a parking sign]
H: right now, yah, yah, yah, yah, right here, right here! Parking lot! Parking lot, hurrah okay!
H: Let’s not hit this thing, or this person, or…
K: Where should I park?
H: Kate’s proving well at driving today.
[Pans to a stuffed reindeer on the dashboard]
H: this is our driving companion. His name is Rodney. He is fab.
Prior to Entry
H: Hellooooo! Here we are! In the parking lot! We’re getting ready to see King Lear! It’s gonna be… good? Hopefully?
H: This is the Theatre Calgary production of King Lear, so it’ll be different than the BBC production.
K: No Gandalf.
H: Yes, no Gandalf.
K: I’m still going to yell “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” though.
H: No Radagast either.
K: No Radagast, no.
H: So, that’ll be interesting. We’ll see how this goes. We’re gonna go in now. But we’re crazy early.
[Look at each other awkwardly. Both laugh.]
K: As per usual.
K: Anything you’re expecting?
H: Blood. I’m expecting blood. Theatre blood.
K: If there’s not blood I will be so disappointed, like actually.
H: Okay, so anyway, we’re going to go in now, so we’ll record something… later?
K: During intermission or right before we go in.
H: Good plan.
H: So… it was…
K: I liked it.
H: It was good.
K: We’re in intermission right now.
H: The stage was more… [Searching for words, staring up at ceiling as if descriptions are hiding on the roof]
K: It was more elaborate?
H: [stares at K. Awkward silence]
H: the music at the beginning was incredible.
K: Yeah, it was good. The effects were quite good… There was no blood.
H: No blood so far.
K: It makes me sad.
H: It’s mostly wood. Lots of wood.
K: The background structure is three levels, three balconies and a set of stairs. With gates and… like… [Gestures as she tries to come up with a better word than awesome]
H: There are moving stairs. The stairs move. It’s cool.
K: There were tapestries hanging off them at the beginning for indoor scenes, and they took them down a couple scenes in and it made it look like they were outside looking into a castle. So even though the structure was quite open it looked like a banquet hall for the first scene. And they took them down quite quickly, I was actually quite impressed.
H: They took the tapestries down?
K: yes. They took the tapestries down.
H: I didn’t seem them take the tapestries down.
K: They all came in to move the banquet tables and they took them down.
H: I didn’t even notice.
K: It’s pretty engrossing the way the stage is set up. The set changes were pretty minimal, and they were pretty quick and efficient, so it didn’t detract from the performance at all.
H: They yell a lot. There is a lot of yelling. And they change costumes about every scene.
K: Goneril’s gone through about three costume changes so far. It’s disturbing.
H: Regan’s gone through two.
K: Lear’s had one… or did he just take off a layer?
H: He just took off a layer. He had this big fur trimmed cloak in this gorgeous red and it was really cool looking, and… it had fur on it. It was really nice.
K: The costumes are quite elaborate and it really adds to the performance.
K: I thought the elaborateness would take away from the acting, but it doesn’t really. It’s well done.
H: The costuming… it’s not Victorian, which is what the BBC production was…
K: It’s more Edwardian.
H: It’s not Edwardian.
K: Well it’s not Victorian.
H: It’s more medieval.
K: But later than Elizabethan I’m pretty sure.
H: No. It’s not Elizabethan.
K: It’s later than Elizabethan.
H: Are you sure it’s later? It’s a lot simpler.
K: Yeah, it’s a lot simpler. But I think it’s later.
K: I don’t know. We can argue about this later.
H: The Globe productions we watched in tutorial had costumes that were far more Elizabethan than these ones, but these ones do have far more detailing.
K: They have a lot of detailing actually.
H: What’s kind of weird is that Goneril and Wiggins [meant Reagan] are wearing white. And very light colours.
K: Which was kind of unexpected. Almost out of character.
H: Cordelia’s mostly wearing gold, and Lear’s wearing black, with occasionally a red sash and the red cloak at the beginning. Like the golden child and the dad in mourning or something.
K: What did you think of Cordelia?
H: She’s good. They used the asides, which I liked, instead of leaving them out.
K: She kind of shouted them though. She kind of turned to the audience and shouted them.
H: That’s the point of the asides. Including the audience in it.
K: But all the action kept going on around her. Did that take away from it for you?
H: No. Cause it’s engaging the audience, that’s the point. The asides are meant for the audience to engage them in the events of the play, and to talk directly to them. It’s like breaking the fourth wall, and she broke the fourth wall pretty effectively.
H: What else?
K: Goneril and Regan are quite well acted so far. Like, especially Goneril. She was crying at the beginning, it was actually sort of disturbing.
H: It was sad. It made her seem just a little less evil.
K: It’s like no, she’s evil, but she’s actually feeling emotion, which is… what is it? Is that fake?
H: But she was crying when facing away from Lear, which meant it wasn’t for his benefit. So she was actually feeling whatever it was that was making her cry. But I couldn’t really tell if it was sad… or anger?
K: I thought it was angrier. It adds another level of complexity onto it.
H: The one criticism I would have about staging is… more about stage direction? Often the characters are facing away from the audience. Their backs are turned, and it makes it really hard to read facial expressions. So it’s kind of difficult, especially with characters interacting one on one. Like, there was a scene with Regan and Lear, and Regan was facing Lear and away from us, so we couldn’t see any emotional complexities in the interaction, and couldn’t see any emotion.
K: And before they ended this half, there was a scene where Lear was delivering a monologue in the middle of the stage, and rather than facing out so the audience…
Announcer: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Act Two will begin in five minutes. This is your five minute call, we ask that you would please start taking your seats inside the theatre.
K: SHUT UP.
K: Lear was in the middle and the rest of the characters were encircling Lear and facing away. So we could only watch a couple of people. So we could see Albany and the Fool and a bit of Kent? I think? But you couldn’t really see anyone else because their backs were to us. So it closed off the performance a little bit. Um… but we’re heading into Act Two?
H: I don’t know if it’s actually Act Two. It’s just the second part of this.
K: The second half of this.
H: There was other thing I had to say.
H: I can’t remember what I wanted to say.
H: I am really upset about this.
K: Set, music, costumes…
K: OH MY GOSH FRANCE.
H: It’s kind of cool, because in the first two scenes, almost all the actors are on stage all the time. Like, Cordelia’s in scene two in a maid’s uniform, and it’s totally her, except it’s not because she’s the maid character, obviously, but it’s the same actor, so it’s interesting. And France keeps popping up. And his actor is really cute.
K: It’s kind of a suspension of disbelief thing. When you’re so close – like, our seats are in orchestra centre – so you’re able to see everyone up close and pick out facial details, and the trouble with that is we know if there’s a repeating actor, so we have to suspend our disbelief on that.
H: I’m keeping my eye out for France. In scene one, it was really adorable because he totally sassed out Burgundy, it was great.
Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, Act Two will begin in three minutes, we ask that you please start taking your seats inside the theatre. Ushers stand by to close the house doors.
K: [glares up at the ceiling]
H: The bell tolls for thee, I guess. But I just wanted to say that France is super adorable, cause you could tell he was taking Cordelia, not for Lear’s benefit or his, but for Cordelia because he loved her, and it was really, really sweet. And now I keep watching this actor and I’m like, “Aw, you’re so cute” and he keeps popping up in soldier’s uniforms and it’s very… He’s a good looking guy. I’m keeping my eye out for him. Which really I shouldn’t.
K: But the bell tolls for us.
H: So we had better go get back to our seats!
K: We’ll see you at the end of the second half!
H: Yeah, with more critiques! Okay!
K: So bye!
H: Bye internet!
And that is the story of how we decided that we probably couldn’t make a career as YouTubers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.