by Lynn on October 16, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Palmerston Theatre, 560 Palmerston Ave. Toronto, Ont.

Written by William Shakespeare
Adapted and directed by Ash Knight
Set and props by David Degrow
Lighting by Jareth Li
Costumes by Christine Urquhart
Sound by Maddie Baustista
Cast: Marc R. Bondy
Walter Bordon
Daniel Briere
Joelle Crichton
Deborah Drakeford
Eli Ham
Courtney Lancaster
Jane Luk
David Mackett
Vijay Mehta
Andrew Moodie
Azeem Nathoo

Shakespeare’s fine play bent out of shape and recognition to accommodate a concept of mental illness. It doesn’t work.

Ash Knight is an actor making his directorial debut with Tragedie of Lear. His diligence in his research is impressive. He consulted both the Quarto of the text and the Folio and used a combination of both. He chose to have a Lear “…well into the throes of Lewy Body Dementia right at the start of the play. “ Gloster is a woman. Edgar initially is played in a drug induced haze as if he has just shot up on heroin (in two scenes). The tie around his upper arm gives that away. The Foole is played as a figment of Lear’s madness and imagination and not a real person seen by other characters.

Knight asks that we not wonder where we are. He wants us to focus on the relationships of father’s and daughters, sisters to sister, mothers to sons, and brother to brothers, He thinks these relationships are what the play is about. He also asks us to consider the treatment of aged parents by their adult children, and their struggles. And he asked us to consider the layers of the characters.

What Ash Knight has not considered are the words of Shakespeare’s actual play because they don’t support most? Any? of Mr. Knight’s choices or his concept.

To show Lear’s madness, dementia etc. Knight starts the play in the storm scene when Lear bellows, “Blow Winds……” and laments that he is going mad. That’s a neat way of choosing that Lear is deep into Lewy Body Dementia. It also seems rather simplistic. And try as Knight does to take this beautiful play and crush, twist, stomp and force it into his concept, it doesn’t work.

And while one can think there are many layers introduced into the characters, if you don’t have actors who can actually convey those layers then you’re lost. Only Deborah Drakeford as Goneril, Eli Ham as Edmund and Marc R. Bondy as Kent have a sense of the language and the characters they are portraying. The rest flounder, bellow and drown unhelped in this unfortunate production.

It plays until Oct. 22, 2017.

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1 Eric Edquist November 27, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Thank you, Lynn for your review. As someone relatively new to theatre, I greatly appreciate the honesty in your reviews. I feel you provide a great service.
By the way, do you still do reviews on the CBC? I haven’t heard you for a while.

All the best.
Eric Edquist.