Friday, October 10, 2008

King Lear

Y. had some tickets to King Lear that he could not use, and he kindly gave them to me. Thus did I unexpectedly end up at the theater tonight with R. (And that is why I am blogging at 2am; once I'm done here, I'll pack for my flight tomorrow.) Wow, do I love Shakespeare - antiquated usages of words, clever puns, and every once in a while, the lines rhyme! Plus everyone dies at the end. Woo hoo!

This spring, I added a used $3 edition of King Lear to my collection of books stored in my gym locker, for reading on the stationary bicycle. I read it twice, a few months ago. (Back when my knee forced me to do a lot of stationary biking.) So I knew the plot, and was ready for the clever outdated-usage puns. And I could explain it to R., whose English is not quite up to Shakespeare-comprehension level. (Oddly, this is now the second Shakespeare play I've seen with him.)

Seeing it performed was much better than reading it.

When I read, I imagined Regan and Goneril as scheming and conniving from the start; they were played as vaguely unsavory characters who gradually worsened, until their tragic-and-unavoidable last-scene deaths. They were more believable when staged than imagined.

It was easy to read a scene with stage directions "plucks out his eyes," but they actually did it onstage. Not his actual eyes, of course, but some fake eyes that appeared to come from his face by clever slight-of-hand. It was messy and bloody and convincingly nauseating. And totally unexpected; I had imagined that it would be staged with him behind a screen or something, then... whoa! Where did all that blood come from? It was dripping down his face and chest, and all over the hands of the eye-plucker. Then, for good measure, Goneril squashed one of the "eyes" on his chest. Poor Gloucester.

The most delightful difference between reading and watching King Lear was Edmund. Kudos to Benjamin Blais, who played Edmund delightfully. Really. Even though Edmund is the villain, and ultimately causes > 8 deaths (his own included), he was a joy to watch. He had as much fun in his convoluted scheming as Iago! And his lines earned more laughs than any other character's. (Holding a knife to his arm, about to self-inflict a wound: "I have seen drunkards do more than this in sport." Delivered in an offhand way, straight to the audience.) Even though King Lear is a tragedy (whose moral, the man sitting in front of us said, is "never have daughters"), I fell in love with Edmund the bastard. When he died, R. leaned over and said, "There goes all the fun."

It's playing at Hart House through October 18; if you're in Toronto, I recommend that you see it. Yay culture!

This post's theme word: dreadnought, either "a battleship that has big guns all of the same caliber" or "a large acoustic steel-string guitar." I'm sure there are clever double-entendres to be made here. I wish Shakespeare were around; he'd have a field day with modern English.

1 comment:

Benjamin said...

Thanks Lila.

I had as much fun playing as you did watching.

See you at the theater,

Benjamin Blais