Thursday, July 9, 2015

King Lear, Bard on the Beach, Vancouver, BC

Bard on the Beach was great fun last night. I confess, I’d not been since the 90’s.  Then I’d loved the comedies but had tired of sitting on a blanket, aging hippy that I am. The last night I was there it was raining, the wind was blowing, I was getting wet and I really didn’t like the metal folding chair I was sitting on.  Now Bard on the Beach by comparison is epic.  The theatre is a really solid tent that appears like it could take a gale force wind. The stage of Pam Johnson and Gerald King  was spectacular too. I loved the set design for King Lear.  I loved Deitra Kalyn’s costumes. Bard on the Beach has come along way from those almost amateur theatre to a Stratford tour de force it is today. .
King Lear is my favourite play of William Shakespeare. I studied Shakespeare in my undergraduate honours English and Theatre program before deciding instead on sciences and becoming a physician. To this day I reflect fondly back on those King Lear classes when all the nuances and references of the rich layered language of Shakespeare were explained.  Now I’ve seen several Lear and watched the movies starring the likes of Olivier and Hurt.  Despite and because of all that, I loved last night’s King Lear.
Laura was enjoying Bard on the Beach for the first time and loved it too.  “There was too much ‘shouting of lines’ for me.”  I told her after.  "I love a quiet intense King Lear."  For me Shakespeare is all language and intensity.  Volume kills it for me.  Rushed delivery irritates me. There was some of that.  I didn’t even hear a couple of my all time favourite lines. The play is the essence of philosophy and theology.  It’s all about our relationships as parents and children, as leaders and servants, civil and filial duty, about determinism and free will, about gratitude and loyalty, about the inner and outer world.  I am forever mesmerized when Lear says to Cordelia, “Lets away to prison….an talk of courtly things, whose in, whose out.”  I imagine that line written about the abysmal CBC news or CNN.  I love best Lear’s line “I”m more sinned against than sinning” and all the references to Job and consideration of Machiavelli.  Divine right and just a man and Marx turning Hegel on his head and today’s euthanasia for our parents all makes Shakespeare a whole lot more relevant than the UN.
So I loved last night’s show, despite the time constraints and the slapstick loudness of the mad scenes. As a psychiatrist I’m today more aware of the mad and know that drunkeness is loud but madness is best delivered quietly.  Again the language and the meaning are what count.  Yet, that’s the joy of Shakespeare. I loved this performance because it was a really good romp. I think truly, the fight scenes are the best I ‘ve scene. I loved the choreography. I actually came away appreciating the actual plot, that weird soap opera history of Shakespeare as those times appear to us despite our own Bill Clinton, Kardasian, reality tv and pot smoking Justin.  The performance really did make clear the history and the relationships of daughters and sons to fathers.  Ironically there are no mothers in the play and the challenge of Shakespeare is that the men must deliver the maternal in the end.
The acting of  Benedict Campbell was  a tour de force. Some parts of Lear came alive for me with his insightful interpretation.  All together it was an amazing performance.  My criticism does not detract from the overall brilliance of a grand performance.  The daughters Goneril and Regan played by Colleen Wheeler and Jennifer Lines were the very best of shrew, haughty looks and leachers wretch.  Cordelia played by Andrea Rankin was as pretty as a penny and sweet but not so womanly as to deliver well enough for me some of the greatest lines in English history.   Decian O’Reilley played Duke of Albany with immense skill showing the amazing transformation of character that makes the play so dynamic. Duke of Cornwall, by Robert Klein, was simple perfection, as if born for this role.  I loved Earl of Clouchester played by David Marr because he really got the complexity of this character.  John Murphy’s Earl of Kent was my favourite Kent of all time.  What a great actor. The fool played by Scott Bellis was hit or miss for me though I can’t say why.  Goneril’s Oswald, played by Ian Butcher was quite simply excellent.  Edgar, played by Nathan Schmidt almost made it because the play demands he move from party boy, to fool to king to be and I couldn’t help feeling he was one step short in the finale, though really all together he was amazing.  Edgar, played by Nathan Schmidt was truly villainously perfect, his arrogance oozing and his reversal subtly handled.
So despite my own demands for perfection I loved this play and would recommend it to anyone. I do think Shakespeare is best met first in a comedy especially in a Bard on the Beach like setting but King Lear is akin to Hamlet and MacBeth, though better, so if one wishes to see what may well be Shakespeares’ greatest, then this is the time and place.  I think Dennis Garnhum, the director has made King Lear more accessible than it might otherwise be. Focussing on the action and the plot he’s made a play that really comes alive. I have come home to read King Lear again, the play made me want to to do that, and thanks to the Dennis Garnhum’s play I read again the immortal words with even greater joy for seeing the play live at Bard on the Beach.  So thank you.  It was a great romp, a great performance and a lovely night out in Vancouver at one of the most beautiful locations for a theatre ever known to man.  Bard on the Beach Rocks!!!
IMG 9888IMG 9897IMG 9898IMG 9901

No comments: