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Bell Shakespeare : King Lear @ Neilson Nutshell Theatre Walsh Bay Arts Precinct

William Shakespeares KING LEAR is a mighty work. For their new production the Bell Shakespeare Company takes on this epic tragedy.

I have seen KING LEAR on a number of occasions, the last time it was a Sydney Theatre Company production directed by Neil Armfield with Geoffrey Rush giving a typically brilliant performance as Lear.

This time it is the much loved Robert Menzies who steps in to the role. Menzies has been one of Australia’s leading dramatic actors, (and much  in a career that has spanned over forty years. He has been a stand-out in every role that I have seen him play, and he gives a memorable, brilliant performance. How good it must feel to him to now have this credit in his body of work, one of the ultimate roles for an actor to play.

This Shakespeare play starts with King Lear retiring after successfully ruling over his kingdom for many years. He is  in the process of dividing up his property  between his three daughters. For his generosity, what he wants in return is some flattery from them in return  Regan and  Goneril  provide this in spades. Cordelia, his youngest  daughter and the daughter he is most fond of, is not forthcoming, thinking that this is something that any good father would do. This enrages Lear as he is an intensely vain man, a trait that proves to be a fatal flaw in his characters. He tells Cordelia that she will not receive any of his property  and wants nothing to do with her.

Those around the Lear try to counsel him that his action is unreasonable and extreme but he ignores them. Lear has lost the person who loved him the most. He is left with Reagan and Goneril who both prove to be treacherous and plot to take away any remaining power that he has. As the play proceeds, the action escalates, everything, including both natural and unnatural forces, conspire against him, and he is left  humbled, in pieces, a shattered man.

Peter Evans production maintains the plays intensity throughout. It is a very intimate experience with the play being performed in the round in the purpose built Neilson Nutshell Theatre.

All the performances were good. Playing the three daughters were Tamara Lee Bailey as Regan, Lizzie Schebesta as Goneril and Melissa Kahraman played Cordelia as well as the Fool.  The mainly young cast acquitted themselves well.  It was also good to see another stage veteran James Lugton giving another distinguished performance in a dramatic role as Gloucester.

The show also starred Anna Tregloan’s distinctive celestial stage design and expressive costume design, Benjamin Cisterne’s incisive lighting design, Max Lyandvert’s edgy soundscape and Nigel Poulton’s expert fight choreography.

KING LEAR is the full dramatic experience which Bell Shakespeare gives audiences at the Neilson Nutshell Theatre until 20th July after which it will travel  to the Arts Centre Melbourne.




















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