Wednesday, November 16, 2016

King Lear - and Glenda Jackson

I am so very glad to have seen Deborah Warner's production of King Lear, at the Old Vic, with Glenda Jackson as Lear (and with a spectacular storm scene, with some eyeball-wincing flashes: do you think I can count this as research?).  Jackson was extraordinary, and it was to her and Warner's credit that one - well, I - very quickly stopped thinking about what it might mean to have Lear played by a woman, and saw the play as about an elderly person losing their power and their mind.  To be sure, one could develop some kind of critique about patriarchy, and patriarchal attitudes, not necessarily inhering within male bodies (and there were lots of bit of male bodies on show, from buttock-mooning to Edgar's penis - indeed, male bodies were generally presented as slightly ridiculous and posturing).  But what hit hard was the pathos, the pathos, the pathos of the final scene (and Jackson is, of course, herself 80 - she can look very old, especially when being wheeled, slack-jawed, in a chair - but as she sprang back to life for the curtain call, and the standing ovation, she looked a very young and yoga-supple 80).  But it was also a production that let one see the closeness of tragedy and farce, which resonated almost too much, after last week.  I didn't care for all the casting - Edgar's voice increasingly irritated me, and unlike almost all the other actors he seemed to have no feeling for language; Cordelia was one tough cookie - which would have worked, if she hadn't over-acted in a stylized, gesturing kind of way that reminded me of all the over-rehearsed moves I learned for my drama exams when a teenager.  Overall, though, it was stunning.

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