Maly Theatre Company, King Lear

Review in Issue 19-1 | Spring 2007

The least one should expect from a production of a classic play is that it translates the text into a theatrical language, making of it a work which is contemporary for its audience. All too often, however, this seems in fact too much to expect from productions which rely on theatrical conventions that are not themselves ‘classic’, but at least belong to the past. The Maly Theatre Company by contrast explores the essential premise of a production – here renewing an understanding of Shakespeare’s King Lear by their own theatrical means today. While the metaphorical images of the text were largely absent – inaccessible through the often bizarre subtitles, accompanying the performance in Russian – the staging itself provided theatrical images of its own making. The ‘story’ of this Lear was told thereby with exemplary clarity and simplicity – removing, for instance, the hackneyed conventions of virtue and vice from the portrayal of the three sisters; and by theatricalising the Fool as a clown, a witness present throughout, while seated at an off-stage piano. This piano proved to be the very mechanism of Lear’s soul, upon which both the Fool and Lear played; from which resounded Lear’s rage; and which became, finally, the haunting automatism of Lear’s self-deception of life in confronting the dead. Indeed, Dodin’s textual adaptation stopped short of Shakespeare’s ending, giving the last word to Lear – asking after the breath that will not come, and thereby voicing the very medium of the actor’s most essential gesture, without which the metaphor of who lives in the actor’s role dies. Would that we could see more such productions – in which Shakespeare’s text, even with subtitles, proves not to be a language foreign to theatricality.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 19-1
p. 27