Review: King Lear at the National Theatre London, February 2014
King Lear is playing at the national theatre in London and is extremely popular. As of February, it is sold out through the end of May. The only way to see it is with either with day tickets or standing tickets. To learn more check out my previous post. I was able to get a standing ticket and saw in on the 15th. While I am not familiar with King Lear specifically, I do enjoy Shakespeare a lot and my father loves King Lear, so I knew I had to see it for him at the very least.
The show has all the lines of the traditional play, but the setting is modern without having a specific date. The feeling of the play is also very dystopian and Lenin-esque. King Lear apparently is sometimes portrayed as just an angry character or completely insane. In this production there is a good medium; it is insinuated that King Lear has dementia and sometimes forgets what has happened previously or he reasons why he or others have done things.
My overall feeling of the play is positive. The actors do very well in their parts and it was easy to understand the general plot, but some things I was confused about having not have read the play. I was confused about how Cordelia died or when her sisters decided to fight against their father, whose side everyone was on etc.
The set was generally minimal, but I think well done. The special effects I think were very good (many people die of course!) but can be graphic. Some warnings about the play is that is does involve full frontal male nudity, and some very bloody, graphic violence.
The most violent part of the play is when Glouster gets his eyes ripped out. At this part there is blood everywhere and since he survives without his eyes, he wanders about with bloody sockets. This actually caused the girl beside me to feint and the medical staff said that this has happened several times, so if you are squeamish, do not see it.
I definitely enjoyed the play and I think it was worth it to stand for over three hours to see it; my feet were just tingling at the end. Just a note on the attitude of the staff; when I bought my ticket the lady who sold it to me was very nice and patient even though it took me a bit to find my phone number. When I got to the theatre for the show though, I thought the staff acted a bit snobbish to me when I tried to figure out what entrance I was allowed to use and the time the doors opened etc. The lady who sold the playbills in the theatre asked me if I was standing space and when I responded yes, actually congratulated me on finding a good spot, so not all the staff was snobbish. Most of the theatre goers just ignored us standing, but there was one lady who pushed through us (even though there was plenty of room) to her seat and gave us a sneer.