Creation Theatre Company - King Lear
10th February to 1st April 2006.
From the Newbury Weekly News.
An empty space
Creation Theatre: King Lear, at BMW Plant Oxford, until April 1
Creation Theatre Company often creates miracles on a shoestring and their producer David Parrish's ideas are ambitious. His company's first attempt at William Shakespeare's King Lear, at the BMW Plant, Oxford, is a valiant attempt akin to scaling Mount Everest without oxygen.
With a cast of only eight, and playing in the vastnesses that they used for the Snow Queen, the impression is of tiny humans lost in space. This works terrifically for the storm scene where Lear howls in the rain at least a hundred yards away from the audience, or in the final battle where dry ice seeps into the chamber casting a truly gloomy glow over affairs. The downside is the appalling acoustics: from the sides, when Lear is ranting away from the audience, his speeches are indistinct because of the echoes.
There is much doubling and trebling of characters. Jenni Maitland plays Cordelia dressed like a fairy in a silvery-white top and white mini skirt - why does she still wear this garb during the final battle scene? - and the Fool (with a half red-painted face).
This pairing is echoed in the text when Lear laments Cordelia's eventual fate with "my poor fool is hanged".
Darren Ormandy performs miracles switching between Edmund and Kent within seconds, mainly by putting on a coat and a different accent. Creation has unearthed a gem in Gareth Kennerley whose Edgar is a revelation. Beautifully-spoken, even in this empty space, Kennerley's performance is full of raw, committed passion. Thin and bearded, this is an actor whose career will be worth watching.
Stephen Ley's Lear is first seen in formal military costume barking instructions like a schoolteacher to pupils. Lear is a small man and so is his realm. Ley's verse speaking is rather formulaic, repetitive in rhythm and lacking emotional range.
With such a small cast director Douglas Rintoul focuses the story on the plight of individuals rather than the country. This cut-down version misses the tragedy of the great king but is successful in showing the disintegration of families, offspring at war with each other in a large, meaningless universe.