Set play: King Lear

4th May 2001 at 01:00

Ten years ago, Barry Kyle directed King Lear in Prague. It was a momentous time. The Czech revolution had just thrown off the shackles of communism. A new world was being created.

Now he directs the paly at the Bankside Globe. He stresses that, unlike the Lear of those heady days, his new production is not guided by an overtly ideological concept. But there will be obvious contemporary relevances. Kyle argues that just as Shakespeare's first audiences responded with horror to Lear's line, "Know that we have divided in three our kingdom", so in our own history we have seen the tragic consequences of partition in Ireland and India.

Kyle relishes the opportunities the Globe offers, but he points out that certain features of King Lear suggest that it was not originally conceived for that stage. "This is not a balcony play like Romeo and Juliet or Antony and Cleopatra . There is no use of the understage. The highly decorative, courtly environment of the Globe stage is not present in the play. Only the opening scene is in the court."

He feels that today's Globe environment will release particular energies of the play. There will be vigorous interaction between the stage and the yard, with its 600 standing spectators. Edmund will begin his first speech there. His repeated use of "base" will acquire special resonance among the groundlings.

The costumes will be Jacobean, but they will gradually change as Edmund, Regan and Goneril seize power. The divide between the two generations will become increasingly clear.

Julian Glover will bring to the role of Lear an extraordinary ability to convey authority and nobility, and to find pathos in madness.

From May 12 to September 21. Box office: 020 7401 9919

A longer version of this review appears on page 24 of this week's TES Friday magazinenbsp;

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