Probably the best part of the trip for me, was the city of Kilkenny where the Watergate Theatre hosting – what was in some ways a disappointing – King Lear was located. The city was jostling with people, as a city usually is. There were people pacing up and down the footpaths. However, as vibrant as it was, Kilkenny was quite peaceful in many ways: whether it was while taking a leisurely stroll around the stunning grounds of Kilkenny castle or the music performances to be heard on a side street beside Dunnes Stores.
It was almost two o’clock when we eventually clambered into what was a packed theatre. Judging by the crowd I among others had high expectations. Unfortunately, these expectations fell short. I’m not going to lie. There were some pleasing aspects of the play that brought a wry smile to my face and even as much as a chuckle at times. Along with this, there were some ideas that intrigued me like the ignoring of Kent for the whole of the production or getting a member of the audience to wander up on stage and play Oswald who has found the blind Gloucester. Of course, the person wasn’t on stage too long as a short sword battle with the actor playing Edgar left her lying on the stage playing dead. I must say that her bravery to get up on the stage was emphatic.
Unfortunately, there were more negatives in the performance. For example, when Oswald came on for the first time before the scintillating performance of an embarrassed schoolgirl most likely pushed up by her friends, I thought he was the fool. In the play, Oswald is portrayed as an upstanding servant to Goneril. However, the actor played him as if he were the, let’s say, Mercutio of King Lear. This was only a small negative however.
The set out of the whole play was wrong. They skipped scenes and then went back to them in a bizarre reshuffle of the play, for example, Act 3 Scene 2 was done before Act 3 Scene 1. This was sustainable but to me they left out the most important scene in conveying Lear’s completed descent into madness, Act 3 Scene 6. The actors had too many roles to play. At one stage, I forgot the same actor was playing Cornwall and Goneril and when Cornwall took out Gloucester’s eyes, I turned to my friend to ask why Goneril was doing the deed instead of Cornwall like in the play. The same actor who played these two characters also played Edgar and a servant. Maybe that was just me though.
There was one mistake which was hilariously ridiculous. They had Goneril place poison in Regan’s drink in the Act 5 Scene 1 before the war had begun when Goneril poisons Regan’s drink in Act 5 Scene 3 in the play. Despite Goneril and her best attempts to poison Regan early, it is not until after the war has finished and Regan is having a new celebratory drink that she dies. Either the poison didn’t work before the war or it was extremely slow in getting through her digestive system.
After some of the scenes they decided to give a quick lesson on themes and imagery, which is an advantage it holds over other productions but still, it is not a play I would recommend to anyone who likes the play Shakespeare wrote because the artistic licence is well and truly strained by the producers.