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Set play: King Lear

The Globe is transformed for this first production of the season. A rough plank facing hides the decorated back of the stage, and swags of fairy-lit leaves and twigs are looped around the galleries. The latter add to a sense of occasion, but not perhaps the right one, being too reminiscent of a high street shop window at Christmas. The rough boards are, however, in keeping with the directness of Barry Kyle's production.

The interlinked stories of the two families of Lear and Gloucester provide a means of exploring wider disintegration, the breakdown of authority and sexual morality, madness and civil strife. In Kyle's interpretation, there is more than a hint that Lear's action in breaking up the kingdom and attempting to divest himself of responsibility merely reveals the canker within.

The sexual chaos which is the corollary of the political disintegration is expressed in the changing behaviour of Lear's elder daughters, Goneril (Patricia Kerrigan) and Regan (Felicity Dean), both intent on seducing Edmund, as they change from buttoned-up respectability to bosom-revealing temptresses. For them, the spiral of death, torture and betrayal also represents a perverse liberation from the constraints of their father's household.

Julian Glover's Lear is a vigorous authoritarian, young for his 80 years. His performance is well crafted rather than moving. His clear verse-speaking serves the production well, clarity being its virtue.

There is genuine humour in the play, which the production shows to advantage. John McEnery as the Fool, a wise, raddled figure who speaks with the voice of experience, is outstanding.

  • Picture: Julian Glover as Lear
    • Tickets: 020 7401 9919. Information about education-related events: 020 7902 1430

      A longer version of this review appears in this week's Friday magazine

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