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Saturday, 19 March 2011

Anna Laycock reviews King Lear at the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Directed by David Farr
Royal Shakespeare Company, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Friday 25th February 2011

Although I did not know King Lear well, I still was very keen to watch it being performed at the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre last week. I was most excited to see one of the first performances on the new stage, and to see for myself whether the thrust layout really is much more effective than the proscenium arch.

From the moment I walked into the foyer of the new theatre I knew that I was entering into something very grand, the front of house area really has been transformed and is much more spacious. Instead of being cramped into one space, audience members can browse in the shop located by the box office, or wonder round the corner to the cafe, explore an exhibition room, have a bite to eat at the Rooftop Restaurant or just simply wait by the theatre bar and admire the view over the river basin. Touches like, projecting photographs from past productions onto the wall beside the cafe and the opportunity to add your message to a web of words keep audience members waiting to take their seats entertained.

When I took my seat at the back row of the upper circle I knew I did not have to worry about not hearing or seeing the action as even being right at the back I was no more than 15 feet away from the stage, much closer than the back seats of the old theatre. Also, the thrust stage made the special effects involved so much more effective such as the rain falling on Lear and sandbags falling from the ceiling, effects that would not have worked as well at all in a proscenium arch space. Furthermore, the play made good use of the space, playing to all sides of the auditorium so that all audience members felt involved.

Greg Hicks made a brilliant King Lear, his portrayal of an authoritive leader descended into madness always had an element of black comedy as well as tragedy. Sophie Russell made a highly entertaining Fool, often making the audience laugh. Another stand-out performance was Tunji Kasim as the manipulative Edmund, who with his cunning words almost managed to win over the audience.

Overall, my experience at the new RST was highly enjoyable and will certainly be an experience I will be having many times again!

Anna Laycock, age 19

Photo by Manual Harlan

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