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King Lear – UK Actors Support Network | Review

If one’s words really carried kingly authority, such a king would not need to raise his voice too often, because he would be revered and respected in such a way that people would listen whenever he spoke. That Lear (David Horovitch) finds himself getting increasingly shouty is a strong indication, therefore, that his once firm iron grip on his kingdom is fading, whether he himself realises it or not.

King LearThis production is a reading, and therefore there is not much in the way of set and props. Performed on Zoom, people enter and ‘exeunt’ by appearing or disappearing, which keeps the play’s momentum going. The absence of substantial scene changes means there is no need to cover them with music sequences or anything else, and while some lines have been cut (and why not?), with Act IV Scene III excised completely, the performance was still far closer to three hours than two. It ran without an interval, with only the briefest of pauses to remind the audience that the reading was taking place with a view to raising funds for Acting for Others.

This isn’t, I must admit, the sort of online offering I would ordinarily look at – after all, how many productions of King Lear does one really need to see in one’s life? But I am pleased I saw this one: pared right back to rely on text and acting, the text (whether Shakespeare’s or not) shines, unembellished and unencumbered. It has been suggested this version of the show be scaled up to a full production, which I wouldn’t be against, given the acting quality throughout, though I am inclined to recommend a minimalist set to capture a similar level of engagement with the story through the dialogue and its delivery.

Through contemporary lenses, the play is rather unkind to Lear’s daughters, none of whom are given much in the way of backstory or proper characterisation. Cordelia (Francesca Zoutewelle) is absent for large sections of the evening (to be fair, she’s been exiled). Regan (Gemma Lawrence) and Goneril (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) are sufficiently convincing, but their courses of action are not exactly plot twists. Elsewhere, much is left to the imagination, though there are some sound effects, and occasionally there’s a voiceover to announce the location of the next scene.

Steadily paced, there were relatively few technical hitches, with no digital show stops. If any lines were missed, they were missed deliberately, as opposed to someone still being on ‘mute’, and the whole reading went very smoothly. This production is proof that a staged reading can be appealing and absorbing with the right cast and production team in place.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Rehearsed Reading of King Lear by William Shakespeare for Acting For Others


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