Hearing King Lear – with National Theatre Live

The National Theatre Live screening of Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear is not to be missed if you’re studying it at school and certainly not if you just love anything to do with this 16th Century literary genius. It is showing (in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town and at Ster-Kinekor Blue Route Mall in Tokai) on 14, 15, 18 and 19 June only.

It goes without saying that Shakespeare was meant to be performed. Not read. But it’s worth reiterating. During my school days we watched one of Shakespeare’s plays on film. Another one was accompanied by a voice over. For the rest it was reading. And that was difficult.

Watching a play being performed brings it to life and helps the viewer understand this writer’s often inaccessible old English. The inflections, the pauses, the tone of voice, facial expressions and movement of the actors all communicate and help the viewer/listener understand and therefore appreciate the words.

I had never read (or watched!) King Lear so this production was a superb introduction. Whilst the language is true to the original, director Sam Mendes brings some modernity to the play by using modern-day clothing and stage set. But, as alluded to above, it was the performance of the excellent actors that enriched my experience of this play.

The action opens with King Lear dividing his kingdom between his three daughters, Regan, Goneril and Cordelia, based on their professions of love for him. Devastated by his favourite’s (Cordelia) unwillingness to flatter him, the king hands his estate to the other two and then gradually descends into madness.

Goneril and Cordelia become greedy and turn their backs on Lear, an act which contributes to his poor mental state. Shunned by his family, Lear’s only companions become the faithful servants in his realm. A parallel story of filial love/betrayal is that between the Earl of Gloucester and his two sons (one of whom is illegitimate).

As with many of Shakespeare’s plays, weather conditions act as portents of things to come. This one is no different. Thunder and even rain accompany descriptions of lightning.

A brief interview at intermission reveals the thought and research that were used to make this production the emotional, understandable one it is.

King Lear screens at 7.30pm on 14, 18 and 19 June and at 2.30pm on 15 June at the theatres mentioned above. With an intermission, the performance is three and a half hours long. Visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or call Ticketline on 082 16789.

A 1600s print out for King Lear

A 1600s print out for King Lear which is to be screened in South Africa from the National Theatre in London. Photo: Creative Commons

Cordelia in King Lear's court, a scene from Shakespeare's play, King Lear. Photo: Creative Commons

Cordelia in King Lear’s court, a scene from Shakespeare’s play, King Lear. Photo: Creative Commons

 

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