Thursday, February 26, 2015
King Lear: Stratford Festival movie
The intent of the movie was to capture the stage experience, although I understand there were some re-shot scenes following the live performance. All in all, it provides a great cinematic experience of watching the play. The only problem I had with the movie version was the sound was...well, not lacking, since it was adequate. But it was simple stereo. I know it's a lot to ask for, but I'm hoping future screenings take better advantage of movie theater sound systems.
In Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, Harold Bloom starts his chapter on King Lear with "King Lear, together with Hamlet, ultimately baffles commentary." If that's the case, that should have been the end of the chapter. But everyone who experiences the play, reading or watching it, seems to feel the need to expound on it (and Bloom did for another 39 pages). I'll keep my comments on this production to a minimum.
Colm Feore was one of the best Lears I've seen. His lucid moments were perfect, and his madness wasn't an over-the-top production. It helps that he was supported with a solid cast. I enjoyed Stephen Ouimette’s Fool, who seemed righteously and rightly pissed. Steven Wentworth as Gloucester drew a nice parallel with Lear, although the rating on his dive from the "cliffs" would probably rate only a 6. The three sisters (Maev Beaty’s Goneril, Liisa Repo-Martell's Regan, and Sara Farb's Cordelia) make you wonder why Lear hadn't gone mad before the play even starts. Well, except for Cordelia, although it may have been Sara Farb I fell for...I can never tell in these matters. Brad Hodder as Edmund and Evan Buliung as Edgar played off each other quite nicely. The full cast list can be found here.
One of the outstanding things about the staging was how unremarkable it was. There seems to be a big debate on whether King Lear is better read than acted, but what I liked about the sparse sets (and the great camera work) was that it allowed the viewer to focus on the language. They seemed to take the attitude that there doesn't need to be a lot of showy acting or special effects to get the full impact of the play across to the audience, to which I thank them.
Next up in the Stratford Festival series is King John on April 8. I will be posting a reminder as the date gets closer.
Update (4 March 2015): There were several articles about the film and quotes from the festival's executive director. I'll just link to this one.