by Lynn on November 30, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto, Ont.

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Rod Carley
Set by Frank Vona
Costumes by Peggy Haskins and Rod Carley
Lighting by John Batchelor
Composer, Jim Harney
Sound by Brian Nettlefold
Cast: Joshua Bainbridge
Maureen Cassidy
Ethan Chapman
David Fox
Jeff Miller
Tim Nicholson
Jennifer Ritchie
Kelsey Ruhl
Charlie Tomlinson

This production barely scratches the surface of this deep play, that seems like it’s a graduate student project but with a strong, compelling performance by David Fox as King Lear.

The Story. You know the story: old King Lear decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, after he makes them tell him how much they love him to get a good portion. Goneril and Regan play the game. The youngest daughter, Cordelia says she loves him as a daughter should. This sends Lear over the edge of rage. He banishes Cordelia and gives the kingdom to Goneril and Regan. It all goes downhill for all concerned from there.

The Production. Frank Vona has designed a very ambitious set of huge grey structures that are rocks; an elaborate backdrop with insignia and a few props including a throne, a bench and other structures on which to sit. The costumes by Peggy Haskins and Rod Carley are gowns for the sisters and military garb for the men.

To really get into the sprit of the times, before the show begins there are sound effects of horses pulling wagons; something that sounds like a brook or walking through waster; people talking loudly. This is the bustling of a busy garrison town.

Director Rod Carley has set this production in Upper Canada in 1837. He has said that this interpretation conforms to the rigid rules of behaviour then. One wonders, therefore, why a courtier is allowed to sit in King Lear’s presence, as he does in Act I, but I digress.

I wish Carley devoted the same effort into a deeper exploration of the text. This is a production painted with broad strokes instead of with fine detail, for the most part.

However, we are in the room to see David Fox play King Lear. Fox has had an illustrious career doing every kind of theatre; from indie work to classical. It’s now his time to climb that blasted mountain called King Lear. Fox gives a bold, quirky, surprising performance of a man who is at once in command but fragile. He doesn’t ever seem to have been crossed so when Cordelia doesn’t lay on her love with a trowel and Kent comes to her defence, Lear just rages and banishes both of them. This is a Lear who is aware of his fragile state of mind, “Let me not be mad!” That is his biggest fear. He has interesting inflections to famous lines. “Reason not the need” is not bellowed but said standing straight, looking out, dazed perhaps, quietly pleading. Is this a further decent into madness? He certainly gets one thinking in that way. His “Howl! Howl!” as he carries in the dead Cordelia is shattering. Here is a man finally at the breaking point and totally clear headed at his horrible loss.

Comment. This production seems like a senior graduate student production with a few older actors for support. Indeed many of the actors are graduates of Canadore College in North Bay, Ont. Rod Carley, the director of King Lear is also the head of the theatre department at Canadore College. This production of King Lear first played in North Bay in April. They then decided to self-produce this production in Toronto at Theatre Passe Muraille. I applaud their tenacity. I just wish David Fox had a cast up to his level.

Presented by the Watershed Shakespeare Festival Collective.

Opened: Nov. 17, 2015.
Closed: Dec. 6, 2015.
Cast: 17; 14 men, 3 women
Running Time: 3 hours 30 minutes.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Desenutz December 4, 2015 at 10:06 am

“I applaud THEIR tenacity”


2 Ofelia January 1, 2016 at 8:49 am

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