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