Lost Lear – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review

Lost Lear – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review

Venue: Project Arts Centre (Cube)

Date(s): 28-29 Sept. 7.45pm
30 Sept. 7.45pm, 4-7 Oct. 7.45pm
1 & 8 Oct, 2.45pm & 7.45pm
2 Oct. 2.45pm

At the start of the production, Liam (Manus Halligan) comes to the front of the stage and tells the story of King Lear in an offhand style. He replaces the rich Shakespearean language with everyday speech, giving a synopsis of the plot in under two minutes! We are then plunged into this play within a play, as this complex story is slowly revealed. 

The play focuses on a new style of therapy, where you keep a patient with dementia in a world they are familiar with. Something they loved and were involved with in their past. This particular patient Joy (Venetia Bowe) was a theatre actor, famous for her performance as King Lear. The nurses act out scenes with her to keep her mind active. 

The staging of this play is very inventive and we should expect no less from director Dan Colley combined with set designer Andrew Clancy. There are 3 large screens at the back of the stage, pushed close together to form a backdrop. There is also a desk at the side of the stage with a cast member standing at it. This cast member creates images of castle interiors, rolling landscapes and storms on the tabletop, which are then projected onto the screens at the back of the set.

There is also a multitude of other tricks on display, as live feeds of the face of the actors are projected onto a thin, transparent curtain which is frequently pulled in front of the stage. At other times, the old woman on stage is recreated using a full-size puppet, operated by up to three cast members. Director Dan Colley was previously involved with Collapsing Horse Theatre Company who frequently used puppets in their work. The puppet is used sparingly but it is fascinating to see how they recreate the fear and nervous energy of a frightened old woman on stage. 

There have been a number of theatre productions exploring the confusion and isolation of dementia on stage in recent years, including The Steward of Christendom and The Father. While those with personal experience of the illness may view it differently, it is an interesting and worthwhile topic.  

The main role in this production is played by Venetia Bowe and she is hugely impressive, often playing both Lear and Cordelia in the same scene! She holds the various strands together with her high-energy performance as the veteran actor Joy and is enjoyable throughout. Peter Daly plays Joy’s estranged son Conor. He moves from an innocent child to a bitter middle-aged man over the course of the piece. Manus Halligan has a casual style on stage that few could replicate, and he does well as Liam. While the plot is interesting, the style and inventive delivery are what elevate this production above many others. It is a visual feast and the actors really embrace this high-concept piece.

Cast and Creative Team
Directed by Dan Colley
Composed by Daniel McAuley
Set Design: Andrew Clancy
Lighting Design: Suzie Cummins
Costume Design: Cherie White
Sound Design: Kevin Gleeson
AV design: Ross Ryder
Performed by Venetia Bowe, Peter Daly, Manus Halligan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.