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King Lear at Theatre Calgary

Wow, This was just amazing!

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.

My ticket:

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-Ishmael Gowralli

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

Disclaimer: I Am Not An Artist

I am not an artist. I can’t stress that enough, and when I was looking over the things to do for badges, creating a work of visual art didn’t strike me as something I could do well, but then today I was thinking about it and wondered about the visual of Lear’s crown, how I might go about making a visual work out of it. And I did. In my own unpracticed, unskilled hand.

King Lear

When I was working on this, I had this quote of Shakespeare in my head: “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” (Henry IV, II, III). The crown had to be gold to represent the wealth of Lear as a king, but also it is a heavy metal, and his crown, his being king, is a heavy burden that cost him.

I made leaves and little flowers on the crown, symbolic of Lear’s crown of weeds and flowers towards the end of the play. The flowers have three petals, symbolic of the three daughters, and the red jewel stands for the bloodshed caused by the division and union of the sisters. At the centre of the crown is a black and red space where a different jewel would be but has been removed – this colour represents the darkness and death brought by Lear’s disowning of Cordelia, and to the left you can see the jewel.

I decided on a pearl for the jewel because of the line in Act IV that compares Cordelia’s tears to pearls – “as pearls from diamonds dropped”. Pearls are beautiful (as Cordelia is frequently called) and are extremely rare – I think there is something to be said about one third of Lear’s daughters being good and loyal. The pearl is crushed and there is blood around it to symbolize Cordelia’s end. On either side of the space of the removed pearl are two red jewels to symbolize Regan and Goneril, and also there is a pattern of two blue dots – there is clearly a space for one in the middle, and I decided not to fill one in to represent the loss of Cordelia from the family.

The broken pearl is in the shadow of Lear’s crown, symbolizing the darkness in the play that is spurred by her disownment. As well, the shadow under Lear’s crown is several different colours to represent the madness of Lear, as there is no clear path for him, shown by how there is no one clear colour.

 

King Lear by Theatre Calgary

In February we will be covering adaptations and productions of King Lear. These productions will be audio and video (here), but I also want to encourage you to attend Theatre Calgary’s performance of King Lear.

We’ve managed to negotiate a reduced price for English 205 students. So really, how can you pass this up? Continue reading King Lear by Theatre Calgary