Review: King Lear at The Tobacco Factory

Bristol’s Tobacco Factory is not a prepossessing theatre. It is an intimate space where the audience are put on a level with the actors, who have to navigate large cast classical productions on a relatively small stage, yet it is home to some of the finest Shakespeare productions. Directed by Andrew Hilton, this production was built around the solidity and drive of John Shrapnel’s magnificent portrayal of Lear – I have no idea why A Younger Theatre said the production was ‘without a singularly magnetic King’. From the moment Cordelia responds to his request for a description of her love with ‘Nothing’, the audience were sucked into his strangely uninvolved, reaction – he coldheartedly taunts his daughter, turning her word around, saying he will give her ‘Nothing. I have sworn’, and remaining unyielding to the forces raging around him. He later develops into a madness that is perhaps more engaged than his original brashness.

Lear remains likeable despite his abysmal behaviour, partly because of the ghastly behaviour of his family, particularly Regan (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) and Goneril (Julia Hills). If they seemed at first to be bad actors, it was only in terms of a lifetime of bad acting as dutiful daughters, and their hilarious fawning over Edmund added comedy to this otherwise bleak play. Goneril was portrayed as middle-aged, and her advancing years seemed to have increased her regal pretentions and ambition to replace her father on the throne. Julia Hills deftly portrays the shrill bitterness produced by the thwarting of this ambition. Christopher Bianchi’s Fool appeared wearied, appearing in demure clothing only reminiscent of a fool’s normally motley outfit, with a calm sleepy tone to his knowing gags (although for all this he was not without charisma).

This was my first Lear production, and I was enthralled, even shedding a tear over Lear and his daughter being reunited, made all the more tragic by Lear’s sudden flash of lucidity and strength, at a moment I knew to be so close to both of their ends. This production lit up the play for me like I’d never experienced through reading it – I finally understand what all the fuss is about. It has given me inspiration to get my hands on any future productions of King Lear, and I’ll be following the movements of Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory. We have an equivalent to The Royal Shakespeare Company on our doorstep – get to it.

If you can’t get to the Tobacco Factory (tickets are selling out fast), then you can catch Bristol students in their touring production of King Lear, St Paul’s Church, Clifton on 22nd March.

★★★★★

Bristol’s Tobacco Factory is not a prepossessing theatre. It is an intimate space where the audience are put on a level with the actors, who have to navigate large cast classical productions on a relatively small stage, yet it is home to some of the finest Shakespeare productions. Directed by Andrew Hilton, this production was built around the solidity and drive of John Shrapnel’s magnificent portrayal of Lear – I have no idea why A Younger Theatre said the production was ‘without a singularly magnetic King’. From the moment Cordelia responds to his request for a description of her love with ‘Nothing’, the audience were sucked into his strangely uninvolved, reaction – he coldheartedly taunts his daughter, turning her word around, saying he will give her ‘Nothing. I have sworn’, and remaining unyielding to the forces raging around him. He later develops into a madness that is perhaps more engaged than his original brashness.

Lear remains likeable despite his abysmal behaviour, partly because of the ghastly behaviour of his family, particularly Regan (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) and Goneril (Julia Hills). If they seemed at first to be bad actors, it was only in terms of a lifetime of bad acting as dutiful daughters, and their hilarious fawning over Edmund added comedy to this otherwise bleak play. Goneril was portrayed as middle-aged, and her advancing years seemed to have increased her regal pretentions and ambition to replace her father on the throne. Julia Hills deftly portrays the shrill bitterness produced by the thwarting of this ambition. Christopher Bianchi’s Fool appeared wearied, appearing in demure clothing only reminiscent of a fool’s normally motley outfit, with a calm sleepy tone to his knowing gags (although for all this he was not without charisma).

This was my first Lear production, and I was enthralled, even shedding a tear over Lear and his daughter being reunited, made all the more tragic by Lear’s sudden flash of lucidity and strength, at a moment I knew to be so close to both of their ends. This production lit up the play for me like I’d never experienced through reading it – I finally understand what all the fuss is about. It has given me inspiration to get my hands on any future productions of King Lear, and I’ll be following the movements of Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory. We have an equivalent to The Royal Shakespeare Company on our doorstep – get to it.

If you can’t get to the Tobacco Factory (tickets are selling out fast), then you can catch Bristol students in their touring production of King Lear, St Paul’s Church, Clifton on 22nd March.

★★★★★Helena Blackstone

‘King Lear’, was directed by Andrew Hilton and assistant directed by Dominic Power. The production is currently showing at the Tobacco Factory Theatre and runs until Saturday 24th March. Tickets are £12-20 and can be booked here:www.tobaccofactorytheatre.com/shows/detail/king_lear

Originally published by Inter:Mission

Advertisements