Northern Broadsides visited The Lowry (5-9 May) to deliver their interpretation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The Quays Theatre layout imitates that of The Globe, which made it the ideal setting for this production directed by Jonathan Miller.
The elderly king of Britain decides to prematurely retire and divide his kingdom between his three daughters. The expertly casted Regan (Nicola Sanderson) and Goneril (Helen Sheals) are required to deliver a speech declaring their love for their father, however honest Cordelia (Catherine Kinsella) explains how she cannot devote herself entirely to her father as she must also love her husband when she weds. Lear flies into a rage and banishes Cordelia to France.
Goneril and Regan begin to undermine their father, their betrayal sends him to into madness. Bent over with drenched hair and wide eyes, King Lear wanders on a heath during a thunderstorm trying to contemplate his downfall. From then on, the Fool remains in sight during Lear’s appearances as a pitiless reminder of his journey to complete insanity.
The incredible costume design reveals the Jacobean time period in which the play is set. The rest of the design is totally stripped back; dramatic scenes are enhanced by simple lighting techniques and sound effects – this simplicity aids understanding of the plot. “Nothing can be made out of nothing” says Barrie Rutter but proves otherwise as his immensely emotive performance of Lear brings the minimalistic set design to life.
This mildly comical tragedy shows us how human nature can be our own worst enemy and the audience seemed particularly receptive to the narrative which resonated following the recent power struggle in UK politics.
Northern Broadsides will be touring with King Lear until 13 June.