Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Words Like Arrows

Adrian Noble has written a valuable book: How to Do Shakespeare. In it, the former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company teaches a master class on the subject. He sums up the objective behind his lucid prose when he says Shakespeare’s words “should engage with the imagination of the audience and not just be consumed by them as a commodity.” In King Lear at the Old Globe, Noble puts his teachings into practice, with impressive ­results.

Shakespeare’s characters don’t think, pause, and then speak. Words and thoughts are one; they “rub together,” as if “coined” on the spot. Thus when a character speaks, the bow’s already drawn back: the idea/word is an unleashed ­arrow.

This is especially true of Lear. Who knows why he chose to break up the kingdom King Arthur fought so hard to unify 200 years earlier? Lear acts with the godlike authority of a pharaoh. He speaks gold, he’s sure. Then he admits to a “darker purpose,” which suggests some vague, preconceived notion, and things — families, castles, nations, nature — fall apart. Lear’s foolish hubris changes the nature of speech. Where “degree” once governed the universe, and everything had a fixed place, words included, now disorder rules: all is up for grabs, and speech becomes improvisational, off the top of one’s ­head.

Noble’s cast reflects the change in line after line. When Goneril (Emily Swallow) realizes she could have more than a third of the kingdom, she speaks as she thinks, ad-libbing her alleged love; same with Regan (Aubrey Saverino). And Jonno Roberts’s excellent Edmund (as funny as he is vile) shares his schemes with the audience unedited, which, you sense, he wouldn’t dare before Lear unfurled the map of ­Britain.

Those who still follow the King, and the old order he represents, suffer. Cordelia, Kent, Edgar, Gloucester become tormented for their fidelity. And Lear becomes a Job without divine intervention. He begins by having it all but then spirals, downward and inward, divested of every trapping, every “accommodation.” He goes beyond Job, discovering time and again that “the worst” is only a harbinger of even worse to come. In the end, his soul seared, he crumples, divested, finally, of his ­mortality.

Lear’s a mighty and tragic figure. But when he dies, amid the play’s cathartic ramifications, one can’t help muttering, “finally.” Like Oedipus, Lear’s demise is a long-belated ­blessing.

The director has set the play in semi-neutral territory. Deirdre Clancy’s costumes begin upscale, in the 18th Century, and then come forward, fanning out as they do. Ralph Funicello’s spare set includes dark, castle-high walls and autumn leaves covering the floor (swept away, in the wintry second act). A wooden platform comes down center stage. It serves as a royal walkway, a hovel, one of Dover’s white cliffs, and “this great stage of fools.” Shaun Davey’s original music handles the entrances well but is absolutely unnecessary when Lear and Cordelia reunite. At this point the audience doesn’t need music to tell them how to ­feel!

Unlike more tasteful productions of Lear, Noble doesn’t couch the suffering behind an arras. Regan, allegedly the kinder of the two daughters, grabs Cordelia’s hair (but why does the king of France just stand there and let it happen?). When he attempts suicide, blind Gloucester doesn’t step from one part of the floor to another: he drops three feet, enough to inspire trepidation for a blindfolded Charles Janasz, who makes the “leap.” The director sets Gloucester’s blinding downstage, the dripping blood and “vile jelly” ocular proof of the deed. In his book, Noble justifies his choices: “The English tradition of tragedy is fairly full-blooded…. In the Greek Theatre, bloodshed and murder took place offstage…. In Shakespeare, we tend to see it ­all.”

I have never heard the Lear story told better. Like Coriolanus, whose “heart’s his mouth,” the cast turns speech into action. Bruce Turk’s nimble Fool (who dies from an accident), Catherine Gowl’s firm Cordelia (more human and less saintly than most depictions), and especially Jay Whittaker’s multivoiced Edgar play each moment as if brand new, with no idea what’ll come ­next.

“Things get so tough,” someone once summarized the play, “that the monarch flips his skimmer.” Robert Foxworth’s Lear begins puffed up and regal and ends at least 20 years older, like a dying candle extinguished by its wax. Foxworth traces the King’s downfall with a resonant (if at times too speedy) voice. His always-competent performance wavers nicely between madness and ­dotage.

What’s missing is size. During the famous storm scene, where Lear calls down the apocalypse (“thou, all-shaking thunder/ Strike flat the thick rotundity o’the world, Crack nature’s moulds…”), the special effects often drown out his words. Snow flurries, flecked with lightning, upstage them as well. The scene’s a genuine eye-catcher: howling in a winter wonderland. But its meaning — he wants the storm to kill us all — gets lost. Elsewhere, Foxworth could tweak Lear’s narcissism and suggest that it masks a profound instability at his ­core.

Adrian Noble is the new artistic director of the Old Globe’s summer Shakespeare Festival. Judging from his Lear alone, Noble was an excellent choice. May he continue his master class in San Diego for a long time to ­come. ■

King Lear by William Shakespeare
Old Globe Theatre, Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, Balboa Park
Directed by Adrian Noble; cast: Robert Foxworth, Emily Swallow, Aubrey Saverino, Catherine Gowl, Donald Carrier, Michael Stewart Allen, Ben Diskant, Christian Durso, Charles Janasz, Jay Whittaker, Jonno Roberts, Joseph Marcell, Bruce Turk, Andrew Dahl; scenic design, Ralph Funicello; costumes, Deirdre Clancy; lighting, Alan Burrett; sound, Christopher R. Walker; original music, Shaun Davey
Playing through September 23. Runs in repertory with The Taming of the Shrew and The Madness of George III. 619-234-5623

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Surfing from Oceanside to I.B.

Girl surfers, surf camp, Skip Frye, East Coasters, surfing as obsession
Next Article

Angry Pete's Pizza brings Detroit to Kensington

Thick crust and caramelized cheese will make you forget about round pies

Adrian Noble has written a valuable book: How to Do Shakespeare. In it, the former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company teaches a master class on the subject. He sums up the objective behind his lucid prose when he says Shakespeare’s words “should engage with the imagination of the audience and not just be consumed by them as a commodity.” In King Lear at the Old Globe, Noble puts his teachings into practice, with impressive ­results.

Shakespeare’s characters don’t think, pause, and then speak. Words and thoughts are one; they “rub together,” as if “coined” on the spot. Thus when a character speaks, the bow’s already drawn back: the idea/word is an unleashed ­arrow.

This is especially true of Lear. Who knows why he chose to break up the kingdom King Arthur fought so hard to unify 200 years earlier? Lear acts with the godlike authority of a pharaoh. He speaks gold, he’s sure. Then he admits to a “darker purpose,” which suggests some vague, preconceived notion, and things — families, castles, nations, nature — fall apart. Lear’s foolish hubris changes the nature of speech. Where “degree” once governed the universe, and everything had a fixed place, words included, now disorder rules: all is up for grabs, and speech becomes improvisational, off the top of one’s ­head.

Noble’s cast reflects the change in line after line. When Goneril (Emily Swallow) realizes she could have more than a third of the kingdom, she speaks as she thinks, ad-libbing her alleged love; same with Regan (Aubrey Saverino). And Jonno Roberts’s excellent Edmund (as funny as he is vile) shares his schemes with the audience unedited, which, you sense, he wouldn’t dare before Lear unfurled the map of ­Britain.

Those who still follow the King, and the old order he represents, suffer. Cordelia, Kent, Edgar, Gloucester become tormented for their fidelity. And Lear becomes a Job without divine intervention. He begins by having it all but then spirals, downward and inward, divested of every trapping, every “accommodation.” He goes beyond Job, discovering time and again that “the worst” is only a harbinger of even worse to come. In the end, his soul seared, he crumples, divested, finally, of his ­mortality.

Lear’s a mighty and tragic figure. But when he dies, amid the play’s cathartic ramifications, one can’t help muttering, “finally.” Like Oedipus, Lear’s demise is a long-belated ­blessing.

The director has set the play in semi-neutral territory. Deirdre Clancy’s costumes begin upscale, in the 18th Century, and then come forward, fanning out as they do. Ralph Funicello’s spare set includes dark, castle-high walls and autumn leaves covering the floor (swept away, in the wintry second act). A wooden platform comes down center stage. It serves as a royal walkway, a hovel, one of Dover’s white cliffs, and “this great stage of fools.” Shaun Davey’s original music handles the entrances well but is absolutely unnecessary when Lear and Cordelia reunite. At this point the audience doesn’t need music to tell them how to ­feel!

Unlike more tasteful productions of Lear, Noble doesn’t couch the suffering behind an arras. Regan, allegedly the kinder of the two daughters, grabs Cordelia’s hair (but why does the king of France just stand there and let it happen?). When he attempts suicide, blind Gloucester doesn’t step from one part of the floor to another: he drops three feet, enough to inspire trepidation for a blindfolded Charles Janasz, who makes the “leap.” The director sets Gloucester’s blinding downstage, the dripping blood and “vile jelly” ocular proof of the deed. In his book, Noble justifies his choices: “The English tradition of tragedy is fairly full-blooded…. In the Greek Theatre, bloodshed and murder took place offstage…. In Shakespeare, we tend to see it ­all.”

I have never heard the Lear story told better. Like Coriolanus, whose “heart’s his mouth,” the cast turns speech into action. Bruce Turk’s nimble Fool (who dies from an accident), Catherine Gowl’s firm Cordelia (more human and less saintly than most depictions), and especially Jay Whittaker’s multivoiced Edgar play each moment as if brand new, with no idea what’ll come ­next.

“Things get so tough,” someone once summarized the play, “that the monarch flips his skimmer.” Robert Foxworth’s Lear begins puffed up and regal and ends at least 20 years older, like a dying candle extinguished by its wax. Foxworth traces the King’s downfall with a resonant (if at times too speedy) voice. His always-competent performance wavers nicely between madness and ­dotage.

What’s missing is size. During the famous storm scene, where Lear calls down the apocalypse (“thou, all-shaking thunder/ Strike flat the thick rotundity o’the world, Crack nature’s moulds…”), the special effects often drown out his words. Snow flurries, flecked with lightning, upstage them as well. The scene’s a genuine eye-catcher: howling in a winter wonderland. But its meaning — he wants the storm to kill us all — gets lost. Elsewhere, Foxworth could tweak Lear’s narcissism and suggest that it masks a profound instability at his ­core.

Adrian Noble is the new artistic director of the Old Globe’s summer Shakespeare Festival. Judging from his Lear alone, Noble was an excellent choice. May he continue his master class in San Diego for a long time to ­come. ■

King Lear by William Shakespeare
Old Globe Theatre, Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, Balboa Park
Directed by Adrian Noble; cast: Robert Foxworth, Emily Swallow, Aubrey Saverino, Catherine Gowl, Donald Carrier, Michael Stewart Allen, Ben Diskant, Christian Durso, Charles Janasz, Jay Whittaker, Jonno Roberts, Joseph Marcell, Bruce Turk, Andrew Dahl; scenic design, Ralph Funicello; costumes, Deirdre Clancy; lighting, Alan Burrett; sound, Christopher R. Walker; original music, Shaun Davey
Playing through September 23. Runs in repertory with The Taming of the Shrew and The Madness of George III. 619-234-5623

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Make a wedding-and-wine statement from Nordstrom Rack and Schutz

Report from the land of brand whores
Next Article

Terra Lawson-Remer out-raises Kristin Gaspar

San Diego State not ready for emergency
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close