King Lear – A Director’s Blog, Part 2

By April 8, 2016 No Comments

Karl Falconer is an award-winning theatre and film director based in England. His work with Shakespeare and classical drama has been staged across the UK and Ireland, and he has produced work in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre amongst others. His work has received support and praise from key industry figures including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Kenneth Branagh and more. His production of King Lear will tour in July.

It turns out King Lear isn’t the easiest play in the world to cut. I didn’t find this when we did Hamlet last year; my objective to cut an hour off the running time was relatively easy. Not so with Lear. Despite its incredible length, the vast number of plotlines and narrative threads, it turns out Shakespeare had got very good by this point. Every line means something and adds to the whole. Cutting anything seems like sacrilege!

Cut we must though, and now I can only hope I’ve been brutal enough to get us down to the runtime enforced upon us by various theatre festivals. Cutting is a delicate balance: it’s not as easy as just getting rid of the difficult lines, or the bits that don’t immediately make sense. I enjoy it, though. I compare it to editing a film: trimming and re-focusing and ultimately driving towards making the narrative and characters clear.

We begin rehearsals next weekend. I can’t express how much I’m looking forward to this new and unique fabric of voices bringing the play to life. There is a really diverse mix of experience in Shakespeare coming to this play; from people who teach it every day to people experiencing it for the first time, to people for whom English isn’t even a first language. I know we’re all going to challenge one another and motivate ourselves to push further. I’m really chuffed with our cast, and I know they’re going to bring new elements to the play that will hopefully make this experience really memorable.

If we can remember all the lines.

Key moment last night. I was at my local leisure centre in the changing rooms after a game of squash. Standing in the shower I noticed an old man, with a group of three or four younger men, standing on a chair getting changed. Naked as the day he was born, standing on a chair, talking to these other men as if this was perfectly normal.

The other men finished and left and the old guy remained on the chair for the entire duration of getting changed. My first glimpse of Lear. Men’s need, in all its pathetic glory, to assert their dominance in the most primal and basic of ways.

I might use that.


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