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Review - King Lear Monster Show: a risky and complex production

By Lilian Harrington

King Lear Monster Show

An adaptation by Michael Beh of William Shakespeare’s King Lear

Directed by Michael Beh

The Curators Theatre

Christ Church,

9 Chippendall St. Milton

Season: 18 May – 5 June (Evenings 7:30pm. Saturday 28 May Matinee 1 30pm; Sunday Matinees 5 30pm. Bookings: / Phone: ( 07) 30639638

The Curators Theatre, has a mission to explore new, and re- imagined texts creatively, in a bold and diverse format; this version of King Lear Monster Show is no exception. It gives a different perspective to audiences, by raising complexities facing the modern world. Under the direction of Michael Beh, this production of King Lear Monster Show explores a new take on William Shakespeare’s play and highlights the modern day relevance. Shakespeare’s original text has been adapted with extracts and inserts from other literary greats, such as Dante, Keats, Dickinson, and Yeats and interspersed with a music accompaniment along with set and costumes to reflect this change and disarray through the production.

The narrative tells of King Lear an aging British king, who decides to abdicate and divide his kingdom evenly amongst his three daughters, Goneril,( Amanda McErlean), Regan (Sherri Smith) and Cordelia (Lauren Roche).

However, his first step is to test his daughters and have them tell him how much they love him. Unfortunately, Lear (Warwick Comber), misunderstands the truthfulness and intention of his two scheming older daughters, who flatter him when he demands that they state their love for him.

He misunderstands his youngest daughter Cordelia , who cannot express her love simply, so he flies into a rage, and banishes her from his kingdom.

He then leaves the kingdom and roams on the heath with his “Fool” (Eleanora Ginardi), in an apocalyptic state; After a terribly wild thunderstorm, a “madness” comes upon him, causing him to suffer health problems. His heart is gradually torn as he realises the older two daughters to be false and intent on undermining his authority; too late he learns the truth about innocent Cordelia. The plot spirals down out of control as a sisterly rivalry between Goneril and Regan develops over property and the bastard Edmund, Earl of Gloucester, (Willem Whitfield); Edmund’s greed and evil intentions towards both his own brother Edgar( Cameron Hurry), his relative Gloucester ( Julia Johnson) and Lear’s two daughters, eventually lead all towards an untimely demise, chaos and death.

Beh intended a complex and dynamic text to explore: gender, inequality, anarchy, mental illness, and justice, in a greedy and flawed society. He’s kept Shakespeare’s core narrative, but viewers may need some pre-knowledge of Shakespeare’s text in order to fully understand Beh’s interpretation which seems fractured in places e.g. foreign languages are spoken by the Fool.(Ginardi). The intention is not quite clear, but Lear takes a leap down a “fox hole” and into a land where the Fool screams like a vixen, with wolf howls from Poor Tom, (Hurry), both characters are seen to be on the edge of humanity. Shakespeare‘s pivotal focus was on politics of self, family, and State, and his messages of autocracy, misogyny, abuse, incarceration, greed, power, position and love have been kept.

The play is complimented by good technical lighting and sound effects, and a set design which features depicting cloudlike symbols of insanity, and remnants of man’s pollution and legacy, plus great acoustics in the timbered church and the hanging portraits from Ronnie Wakefield on the walls, all helping to create a “medieval and manorial environment” along with Beh’s mixed costume designs which complete his message of the complexities of Lear’s world spiralling towards chaos. This risky and complex production will baffle some, but it is of a high standard and the stage has always been a platform for experiment; this show is no exception.


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