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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Friday, April 27, 2012

King Lear, theatre review

Published in the Guardian
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars
THERE'S a sense of impermanence about Dominic Hill's austere King Lear. The very tables and chairs seen temporary, forever being overturned and whisked away, as if in response to Lear's unstable plan to split his kingdom three ways. Tom Piper's stark set of planks and windows dissolves at the edges, giving way to a netherworld populated by a brooding underclass and the hulks of old pianos that echo ominously.

Emerging from a monochrome gloom, this is an apocalyptic vision of a culture moving from decadence to decay. Lear's entourage have the boozy air of entitlement of Bullingdon Club members, offended to be fed take-away pizzas by a begrudging Goneril. Their time is up. When the tragedy reaches its end, the stage is filled with renegades from the Occupy movement. A class-based revolution is on its way.

But while the production moves in that direction, David Hayman's Lear charts a different course. This is a tragedy of his own making, brought about less through complacency than arrogance. He is not a quaint old man addled by senility so much as a hard-nosed operator who's misjudged the mood of the moment. At the start, he is sour, bitter and dry, showing no hint of the indulgence he may once have afforded Cordelia and, in his belligerence, providing ample reason for his other two daughters to let him down.

He brings out the violence of Lear's language, but leaves us with little sympathy when he is cast into the wilderness to rage some more. Only towards the end, when his madness is externalised and he seems to enter an asylum, do we connect emotionally with this man who has lost everything. Accordingly, Hill marshals his forces for a gripping closing scene that fuses power politics and domestic drama, but until this point, it's a production low on compassion.

© Mark Fisher, 2012
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