An exciting addition to the current offerings celebrating 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare is Director Max Webster’s touring production of King Lear with the mighty Michael Pennington wearing the tragic Kings crown.
Pennington gives an absolute masterclass in classical acting, he is utterly mesmerising, angry and fierce one moment, fragile and vulnerable the next, he draws the audience in and you quickly forget there are a few hundred other theatre goers around you.
The transition from powerful tyrant at the start of the play where Lear wrongly disowns adoring daughter Cordelia (Beth Cooke) to the final scenes where we see him broken and maddened by sorrow is enormous, captivating and totally heart-breaking. Misjudging his two eldest daughters loyalty, Lear finds himself increasingly desperate, stripped of his wealth and majesty, the respect he was once shown is now forgotten and he is left to live with the past mistakes he has made.
In addition to Pennington’s fine performance is a very strong cast who each in turn deliver fantastic performances. Lear’s two eldest daughters, Goneril and Regan are played expertly by Catherine Bailey and Sally Scott, an evil duo who grow increasingly twisted with the power bestowed upon them. Similarly the warped relationship between brothers Edgar (Gavin Fowler) and Edmund (Scott Karim) is played out perfectly, the villainy of Edmund leading to the brutal demise of his own father Gloucester (Pip Donaghy) offers Edgar the opportunity to secretly nurse and care for the Father he was forced through the evils of his brother to flee.
Adrian Linford’s set is sparse but effective, allowing the actors to be the firm focus of this production. At just under three hours including an interval it is not a short production by any means but Director Max Webster maintains a great pace and flow which combined with the fine performances on stage keep you totally engaged.
Although one of Shakespeare’s most bloodthirsty tragedies, this excellent production offers wit, humour and many moving moments, it is beautifully accessible Shakespeare, unpretentious, poignant and totally gripping.
On at the Opera House until Saturday 4th June, tickets available here; http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/king-lear-2016/opera-house-manchester/