Review – heartBeast’s King Lear
Written by William Shakespeare
Presented by heartBeast Boutique Theatre
Season: July 25th to August 15. Bookings at qtix.com.au or 136246.
If there is one thing that is feared by us all, yet must come to pass, is the deterioration of Man.
King Lear is perhaps the most tragic of Shakespeare’s repertoire . This particular production was brought to life by placing its setting within a “gothic” Australia and was really quite compelling. heartBeast did a remarkable job of interpreting such a heavy and well known play. Along with the pre-established setting, it brought a unique and refreshing spin on the play.
The action centres on the life of King Lear as he slips into insanity. He divides his lands into thirds so that his daughters may take their share. Little does he know, until it is too late, that his two eldest daughters wish to betray him, and cast him out into the wilderness. It is then that the audience bears witness to the demise of King Lear’s sanity. Meanwhile, there is more unrest within the house of a neighbour, whose son plots to kill him and, in order to appear innocent; he implicates his brother as the culprit. This brother is also forced to flee into the same wilderness as Lear, whilst the two daughters and neighbours son rule with iron fists, blood lust and jealousy. It is the task of this outcast brother to make amends and set things right.
The scene was set immediately as audience members filed into the venue. The vaulted ceilings, the wooden floors of Trinity hall, and the haunting and achingly beautiful background music plunged one into heartBeast’s world of Lear.
The set was minimalist which really worked well in this context, with its plain white beams and single, leaf-less tree. The lighting and sound were also very simple, which was fine, as the production did not need flamboyant lighting or sound effects. The acoustics of the hall were a little echo-y at times, which made it sometimes difficult to understand the actor’s lines, but this did not occur often, and so was not really an issue. I should also note here, however, that strobe lights are used in this production.
Each of the actors were highly skilled and performed their roles with good amounts of energy. John Evans as Lear, Helen Ekundayo as Goneril, Anna Loren as Regan, Jane Schon as Cordelia, Isaac Barnes as Kent, Adrienne Costello as the Fool, Brent Schon as Gloucester, Matt Gaffney as Edmund, David Paterson as Edgar and Patrick Bell as Oswald are all to be commended on their performances, as they really, well and truly, transported the audience into their strange and gothic world of madness.
There were quite a few things I liked about this production. Chief among them was the costumes. Director Jacqueline Kerr was responsible for the costume design and should be congratulated on the excellent choices. They really brought out the setting, the characters and allowed the audience to see things about the characters that were not written in the script. As I mentioned, the set was simple and minimalist, which worked really well – I especially liked the use to the trap door. Keegan O’Neil, sound designer did an admirable job with the sound that was used throughout the performance, however, the level drowned out the actor’s voices at times, which made it hard to hear.
To sum up, King Lear as performed by heartBeast Boutique Theatre is a rich interpretation of the Bard’s tragedy. It transports the audience into a gothic Australian setting, with beautiful costumes and haunting sound design, it is most definitely a performance worth seeing.