By Liv Wilson
Warwick Comber as Lear. Photo by Naz Mulla.
King Lear Monster Show
An adaptation by Michael Beh of William Shakespeare’s King Lear
Directed by Michael Beh
The Curators Theatre
9 Chippendall St. Milton
Season: 18 May – 5 June (Evenings 7:30pm. Saturday 28 May Matinee 1 30pm; Sunday Matinees 5 30pm. Bookings: https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing?eid=829573&embed Phone: ( 07) 30639638
Set in a Fellini-inspired dreamscape of apocalyptic wastelands, this re-visioning is the politically-resonant story of an aging and once powerful king who decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters.
Demanding to be reassured of their love, he invites each to speak. His ambitious and unscrupulous older daughters give false praise and empty declarations of love, whilst his youngest speaks simply and sincerely. Thrown into a rage at her response, Lear sets in train a series of catastrophic consequences, causing his former kingdom to spiral into chaos, driving him to madness and destroying many lives.
The Curator’s reimagined production of King Lear was a bold, ambitious and edgy experimental piece of theater. The ‘brief’ the director Michael Beh envisioned was met superbly by the actors, the whimsical set design and the overall restructuring of the script. I was impressed by the unique use of the gorgeous heritage listed church and the way the artwork adorned the walls in a way that looked like the inside of King Lear’s grand-castle.
While the use of eccentric costuming and set pieces were very thought provoking I did find it hard to keep up with it at times. The changes in characters' looks between Act 1 and Act 2 were confusing and took my attention away from the storyline temporarily. In saying this, I do understand the intention was to bring light to the modern and edgy ideals of the characters and storyline, I’m just unsure if all of the costumes and set pieces were needed to execute this effect.
This tight-knit cast worked strongly as an ensemble as well as having individual moments of excellence, which is a great thing to see as it’s rare to have every cast member perform to a high level in independent theatre.
Warwick Comber was brilliant as King Lear, the resonant tone of his voice and authentic portrayal of the King’s descent into madness was very enjoyable. I think Comber was cast very well in this role and his physical presence was a perfect juxtaposition to some of the slighter cast members.
The three daughters, Gonerial (Amanda McErlean), Regan (Sherri Smith) and Cordelia (Lauren Roche) were the center of most of the ‘drama’ and they each brought a great reinvented spin on the famous trio.
McErlean was very commanding and devilish throughout the production and I enjoyed the truth and hilarity she brought to the character’s fits of anger and aggression. Smith was brilliant and showcased a great deal of variety in her acting and really shone in the more subtle moments her character felt. I particularly liked her child-like take on certain moments; it was such a smart contrast to Goneriel’s more uptight characterization. Roche played a sweet and very believable Cordelia, I only wish she didn’t get banished so she could have had more stage time as her acting was very sharp.
One of my favorite characters and actors of the night was Willem Whitfield as the menacing Edmunde. Every time he stepped on stage he had a presence that was unmatched, he had a great balance of the ‘evil/unhinged’ brother and the ‘ever-pleasing’ son. I think he was cast perfectly in this role and absolutely one to watch in this production and any to come.
I was intrigued by Beh’s choice for parts of the script to be spoken in various languages (French, German etc). It brought more intensity to the individual lines however it was incredibly difficult to read the English translation projected on the back wall. A few scenes in Act 2 were easier to read when the lighting was dimmed but the rippled backdrop still made for an unfortunate canvas choice.
I admire the bold social statements that were woven into the play through the set decoration, costuming, audio/visual elements and the modern references these all assisted in making this version of King Lear quite unforgettable.
This production is well worth seeing and has cleverly been created in a way that pleases die-hard Shakespeare lovers as well as audience members who are looking for a reimagined take on a classic. King Lear was written against the backdrop of a plague ridden London in 1606 where theaters were closed and actors were out of work… I don’t think we need any more proof that The Bard still holds up in our own modern-day plagued world and TCTC have done a great job of showcasing these parallels.