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King Lear


Citizens Theatre
4 stars
There’s a glorious circularity to David Hayman’s return to the Citz 
after a twenty year absence in Dominic Hill’s mighty production of 
Lear. Where Hayman began his career on the same stage four decades ago 
with a unique take on Shakespeare’s mad Danish prince, here he appears 
equally unhinged as the elder statesman whose estrangement from his 
favourite daughter lurches him into a mid-life crisis that leaves him 
with nothing.

It begins with a Hogarthian chorus resembling Occupy protesters 
breaking into the palace where the party is in full decadent swing. In 
this sense, the economic and class divide of the story is laid-out from 
the start, with the chorus punctuating every psychological body-blow 
with Paddy Cunneen’s live score played on splintered piano strings and 
other bomb-site detritus. Edmund is a initially a hoodied-up student in 
search of a cause to legitimise him while his swotty brother Edgar 
sprawls himself across the sofa.

If that is a family feud waiting to happen, once Lear’s beloved 
Cordelia breaks ties, Lear surrounds himself with parasitic party 
people, indulging his wild years with excess before ending up on the 
scrap-heap. The image at the end of the first half of him ripping to 
shreds bin-bag effigies of his daughters is spine-chilling.

While Lynn Kennedy’s Cordelia becomes penniless and pregnant, Kathryn 
Howden’s Goneril and Shauna Macdonald’s Regan are vicious, fur-clad 
vultures, with Regan’s sexed-up greed even causing her to stab 
Gloucester’s eye out with the heel of her stiletto. If watching Hayman 
in tatty long-johns go demented before a crowd of white-coated doctors 
is like gazing on the ghost of Citizens past, the final display of 
people power looks bravely towards the future.

The Herald, April 26th 2012

ends

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