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King Lear – Smock Alley – Review

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King Lear – Smock Alley – Review by C. K. MacNamara

PurpleCoat Productions –  10-12 July, Smock Alley

The Shakespearian classic of loss, power and vanity made its way to Smock Alley in this adaptation by PurpleCoat productions. Under the guiding hand of Director and Producer Karl Falconer, the adaptation offers a retelling strewn with superficial tweaks and drawbacks, as well as a beautiful display of prowess by an engaging cast.

Paul Carmichael steals the audience with his first expression in the role of Lear, swaying haphazardly behind a flask as he denounces Kent (Samantha Nicole Christie) and cavorts with the Fool (Karl Falconer) in his descent into madness. It is the beginning of a performance which, by the end of the play, is one of the finest seen in the Smock Alley in recent memory.

In fact, each scene sees a shift from one excellent performance to another – Jamie Peacock as Edgar steals the show from Natasha Ryan as Goneril, who steals the show from Stephen Michael Turner as Edmund. Turner himself plays the mirror role to Lear, with his debauchery, drinking and drug use increasing to fever pitch. The finale of the play takes place in a haze of Edmund’s second-hand cocaine dust as the stage debris slowly builds.

Indeed, these clever technical touches are evident throughout the production, with the simple but effective use of chalk being employed to add a dramatic element to the set design. The dapper costumes gradually accumulate a coat of pink and yellow dust, accompanied by the scene of Goneril and Regan casting Lear into the storm, which takes place in a cloud of tears, rain and pastel smears.

The one-two punch of the performances and technical trickery help overcome the occasions when the play becomes muddled, with the pinnacle scene of Edgar and Edmund’s showdown utilizing the spiral balconies of Smock Alley to operate partly offstage; Edgar appears far above the stage and charges down through the audience to confront his half-brother.

However, the piece is not without its hiccups; Karl Falconer is sufficient in his role of the Fool, and compelling as Gloucester, but casting a young man in the latter role often seems odd if not comedic, particularly in tandem with his sons played by Turner and Peacock.

Ultimately the piece is a marathon performance, demanding the utmost from its cast, which they provide in captivating abundance. Despite minor technical and casting drawbacks, PurpleCoat Productions adaptation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece ends with a stage strewn with debris, and the aftermath of the casts enthralling performances.

Cast –

King Lear- Paul Carmichael

Goneril – Natasha Ryan

Regan – Evangeline Murphy King

Cordelia – Emily Heeney

Gloucester/Fool – Karl Falconer

Edmund – Stephen Michael Turner

Edgar – Jamie Peacock

Kent – Samantha Nicole Christie

Cornwall/Doctor – Kimberley Lasi

Albany/France – Daniel Anderson

Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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