King Lear

Courtyard, Stratford


Productions of this once unscaleable tragedy come thick and fast: it is only two years since Ian McKellen played the king at Stratford, and Derek Jacobi leads a new expedition at the Donmar in December. But David Farr's revival justifies itself if only because it gives Greg Hicks, that most flinty and resourceful of actors, the chance to plumb the depths of suffering.


About Farr's production, I have mixed feelings. Its dominant image is of a realm in a state of disintegration. In Jon Bausor's quasi-industrial design, this is embodied in skewed girders, broken windows, sizzling strip-lighting: at one point, as in last year's Winter's Tale, the kingdom's flimsy walls collapse. While this might all be a take on modern Britain, there are too many competing allusions for coherence: we get soldiers and nurses out of the first world war, swords alongside rifles, and, at one point, medieval chants. Albion indeed seems to be coming to confusion.


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