I must admit that I went out to watch King Lear with a slightly sinking heart, yes, it was Shakespeare, and yes I was sure it would 'knock me off my feet' but I was tired and ready to go to bed. From the moment I sat down on the slightly faded green seat in the Bristol Old Vic, my attention was captivated. Not only was the whole atmosphere of the theatre that of bustling excitement, but the set up of the stage looked intriguing, and different from any other Shakespeare I'd ever seen.
From the get go the set took my breath away. Throughout the performance it was moved effortlessly around the stage, creating a stable, a palace, or the wilderness, with just a few props and lighting. One very interesting technique was to use a projector to show the division of the kingdom between the sisters. This was done in a way that kept the authenticity of Shakespeare's works, but also made it easy for the audience to understand what was going on. The costumes were also very original, with many of the females wearing trousers towards the end of the play, instead of dresses that would've been typical in Shakespeare's time.
In terms of the acting I was completely inspired. In a play that is all about the divide between young and old, Bristol Old Vic marvelously brought together two generations of actors and actresses working together to re-tell this spellbinding tragedy. Well-known actors such as Timothy West and David Hargreaves acted alongside students of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and there was no obvious divide in talent or passion. The bar was set unbelievably high by the whole cast as they played out the story of King Lear and his daughters. Sanity, insanity, love, hate, loyalty and betrayal are woven together in this tale of mistakes and regrets.
At the end I was left desperately wishing I could re-write the script Shakespeare wrote some hundreds of years before, and yet, in some ways the end shows many things my ending possibly could not have done. Shakespeare shows that, even if, in the end people are forgiven and shown where they messed up it doesn't mean everything will be sorted into 'happily ever after.' Sometimes it ends with men, blind and stumbling, begging to be forgiven, before leaving the mess they created behind forever.