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Tony Grist

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Lear [May. 28th, 2008|10:26 am]
Tony Grist
On our way to and from Stratford we listened to an OU production of King Lear. It wasn't very good. You can't do Lear with the 2nd XI. You've got to have strong actors in every role.

Edgar for instance. Edgar is an underwritten part. He's Hamlet without the wit or the soliloquies- a young man whose family has betrayed him and who puts on madness as a disguise. But is it wholly a disguise? In my vision of the play Edgar is a man in extremis- almost as much as Lear is-  only more resilient because of his youth- who when he moves into the character of poor Tom lets go- and once he starts raving, finds it hard to turn it off.  Our actor had Edgar fully in control of himself, flipping in and out of "madness" with ease- which made his interaction with Lear and Gloucester seem callous and his ranting phoney. At the heart of the play is the extraordinary scene in which Lear, Edgar and the Fool bounce their craziness off one another- like the Marx brothers playing for tragic effect. You need to believe in them all. A weak link- a weak Edgar- and it becomes a dog's breakfast.  

Lear himself is the toughest role Shakespeare ever wrote. He goes from Joseph Stalin to Francis of Asissi, with Bill Hicks in the middle. It works on the page- because it's possible to imagine an actor protean enough to encompass all these personae and make the transitions seem natural, but does he exist in real life? I'm not sure. Hamlet is a role in which every actor makes some sort of success, Lear one in which every actor more or less falls short.  Maybe there's a definitive Lear out there somewhere. If so I haven't found him. 

Peter Sellers was offered the role once- and funked it. A pity, because it would have been ever so interesting....
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Comments:
From: manfalling
2008-05-28 03:03 pm (UTC)
I've never actually seen or read either King Lear or Hamlet. I guess we did other ones in school, and I've never pursued, but I think I ought to remedy that now. Could you recommend a version of each? Hopefully not too obscure so I'll be able to get hold of them. Cheers.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-28 07:09 pm (UTC)
Ailz swears by the Kenneth Branagh Hamlet. I haven't sat through it myself, but I've liked the brief clips I've seen. One of its virtues is that it gives the complete, uncut text.

Lear is more difficult. There are quite a few excellent versions of Hamlet, but I can't think of a single version of Lear that I really like- not that I've seen them all. Olivier's version- made for Granada TV- has good points- and a lot of people like the film with Paul Scofield (which I haven't seen)
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2008-05-28 03:32 pm (UTC)
In my vision of the play Edgar is a man in extremis- almost as much as Lear is- only more resilient because of his youth- who when he moves into the character of poor Tom lets go- and once he starts raving, finds it hard to turn it off.

I like that very much. Have you ever seen him played so?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-28 07:13 pm (UTC)
I really don't know. I've seen a number of Lears- and with none of them can I remember a single thing about the actor playing Edgar. It's a forgettable role. I've a vague notion I may have seen David Thelfall do it and that he got it right- but maybe this is just wishful thinking and what my brain is actually telling me is that it would like to see Threlfall in the role.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2008-05-28 07:13 pm (UTC)
I saw the Globe production of Lear a couple of weeks ago and Edgar was the strongest role. A mimsy mummy's boy who faked madness as Poor Tom, then came into his own as an avenging Myrmidon in black armour in the final scne. It stretched credibility a little bit for him to change so much in the course of this play, but a Welsh actor called Trystan Gravelle, pretty much pulled it off in the three different aspects of Edgar.

http://www.shakespeares-globe.org/theatre/annualtheatreseason/kinglear/
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-28 07:17 pm (UTC)
That sounds interesting. If you play it that way then Edgar's journey is as long and as bumpy as Lear's- which I think is just as it should be.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-28 07:32 pm (UTC)
P.S. I think we're going to have to try and get seats for this. Thanks for the recommendation.
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