This production of King Lear was absolutely fantastic. Although I was watching it on the screen, I felt a strong connection to everything happening on stage. The camera work was incredible, I didn’t miss a single word or motion on an actors face. The lighting, music, and scene transitions of the play was dramatic and engaging. If the Michigan Theater is ever showing a performance live in HD, know that it is the next best substitute to being at the theatre house yourself.
As a warning, this review is not going to be a synopsis of what happened in the play. That is available on SparkNotes. I’m going to write about my thoughts/interpretation, and this review is meant for those familiar with what happened in King Lear.
Although King Lear is very popular today, for many centuries King Lear was not played because of how depressing and dark it is. When King Lear first became popular in the 19th century, it wasn’t Shakespeare’s original version, but an adapted version that had a happy ending where Kind Lear and his youngest daughter Cordelia survive. I am glad that the original version came to popularity because there is so much to learn from the dark nature of King Lear. The word “see” was repeated throughout the play in different ways. It is because seeing with your eyes and seeing with your heart is different. When the Duke had vision, he was blind as to the love of his sons, but when his eyes were plucked out he was able to see the mistake he made trusting Edmund over Edgar. King Lear was blinded by his pride as king, blinded by everyone bowing to him that he couldn’t recognize what authentic admiration. He had grown to believe praise is equivalent to love. However, when he lost everything because of his evil daughters, he is then able to see how foolish he was disinheriting Cordelia. There is a lot we can learn from this in our own lives. It’s hard to get the full effect of Shakespeare’s lessons without actually watching his plays, but simply said, don’t let pride overtake your love of others.
My favorite character was the fool. It seems that in King Lear the crazier the character the wiser they are or become. The fool is an absolute ass, making dumb jokes and a mockery of himself constantly, but he is also the wisest. He tells King Lear how foolish was he was to entrust everything to his evil daughters, and that while he is a fool, King Lear has no more title. He does this with the analogy of cracking an egg and then drinking the inside, leaving the king with two empty shells.
My only complaint was that it was hard to understand at times. Not because of the language, it is a given that understanding Shakespearean English is a tough task, but I am referring to the British accents of the actors. Ian McKellan as King Lear had a strong british accent, after King Lear had gone mad and his speech became more slurred it became especially difficult to understand what he was saying.
My favorite character was Edgar. I liked that he was very mysterious. Edgar has very few lines before meeting King Lear when he is portrayed as someone who has gone mad and is absolutely crazy. We then learn that his craziness is all part of his ploy to hide and disguise himself from his father who has placed a warrant on his head. However, it is also Edgar who forgives his father and exposes the evil plans of his brother Edmund. Edgar is also the only character to get sweet revenge when he kills Edmund in a duel. This is one of the few moments where I felt happy and that justice exists.