Stephen Hyde’s vision of King Lear is absolutely fascinating, if not quite terrifying. The production concentrates on the essential human self and, more importantly, the animalistic nature that lies within.
Whilst all of the characters are explored in this way, the investigation, of course, focuses on Lear himself, played by James Hyde. He is an insecure and anxious man but we sympathise with him and understand to an extent why he makes the mistakes he does. The directors have chosen to make the character of the Fool a physical extension of Lear’s internal conflict between sanity and insanity; a sort of fusion between a conscience and the personification of madness. This is an incredibly interesting concept, and promises to play on the minds of the audience and the other characters.
Hyde’s Lear also plays with physicality, focusing closely upon the body as well as the mind. The characters initially appear to be regal and static, yet over the course of the play their actions reveal this to be far from the truth. By the end these inhibitions, caused by the need to conform to expectations, are lost, shown extraordinarily well in the fight scenes, choreographed by Jennifer Hurd.
The production is planning to make the exploration of madness something that the audience can also feel through strong lighting. They are even giving them blindfolds to make the experience about more than just the visual elements of the play. Projections of the scenes – some of which will be filmed by the Fool on a handheld camera – will be shown around the theatre, so the audience’s perspective will change during the performance.
The team of actors are talented and well chosen – there will be no chance here of Shakespeare not being understood – particularly Lear and his daughters. Emma Hewitt’s Cordelia convincingly combines sweetness and grit, while Georgia Figgis and Isobel Jesper Jones as Goneril and Regan respectively are satisfyingly sickening. Hyde commands the stage as Lear. At the beginning the other actors seem to orbit him and we watch as they gradually lose repect for the King, as he (and they) lose their grip on reality and sense of self.
King Lear promises to be a show that is not only entertaining but an experience that will affect its audience deeply. I look forward to seeing how the different elements of the show come together.