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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: May ::
Re: Doubling in *Lear*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0413.  Monday, 9 May 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Robert O'Connor <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 May 1994 10:37:47 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0410  Qs: Doubling in *Lear*
 
(2)     From:   Adrian Kiernander <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 May 1994 20:24:08 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0410  Qs: Doubling in *Lear*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert O'Connor <
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Date:           Monday, 9 May 1994 10:37:47 +1000
Subject: 5.0410  Qs: Doubling in *Lear*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0410  Qs: Doubling in *Lear*
 
Dear SHAKSPEReans,
 
Kimberly Nolan asked about productions of *Lear* in which the Fool and Cordelia
were doubled.  I haven't seen any executed in that particular fashion, but the
Playbox company of Melbourne are touring Australia and Asia at the moment with
a production which doubles Cordelia with Oswald - a very dwarvish and squeaky
Oswald, who is hard to take seriously as any kind of beau of Goneril's.  The
production has a lot to recommend it, and, to be honest, some conspicuous
flaws.  In some ways this doubling did not work, as I think it was only
achieved with a significant reduction in Cordelia's part, but then the
production as a whole was only 1 hour 40.
 
Robert O'Connor
Australian National University
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Adrian Kiernander <
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Date:           Monday, 9 May 1994 20:24:08 +1000 (EST)
Subject: 5.0410  Qs: Doubling in *Lear*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0410  Qs: Doubling in *Lear*
 
Kimberly Nolan asks about productions in which the same actress doubled as
Cordelia and the Fool. Another Australian production in which something like
this took place was staged in Sydney a couple of years ago by the Sydney
Theatre Company as part of (the alas late) Philip Parsons's ongoing series of
research productions of Shakespeare. The attempt in this case was to reproduce
as far as possible the likely conditions of an early C17 touring company with
only the kind of resources that could be taken on the road--very basic costume,
a set consisting of a simple trestle-like stage backed with hessian curtains
and lots of doubling. The rehearsals were very brief and as I understand it
consisted mainly of the actors learning their lines and performing them as well
as they knew how, largely front-on to the audience.
 
The roles of Cordelia and the Fool were doubled but, since all the actors were
male, by a man. He and his sisters wore wimple-like headdresses when playing
the women, but in the final scene where Lear brings in the dead body of
Cordelia the wimple was gone--just the face and hair of the Fool with the body
(that is to say, costume) of Cordelia. It was a complex and disturbing moment,
both emotionally and intellectually.
 
I should point out that this was the most moving performance of the play I've
yet seen, and that Ron Haddrick--one of Australia's best actors-- gave me
things in his performance as Lear that I've never seen before. The horrific
speech about women being centaurs from the waist down had me feeling literally
nauseous, both in distaste at the appalling contempt and hatred of women, and
in a perverse sympathy for Lear's anger and frustration. And in the 5 x "never"
the first four grew in intensity as expected, but the fifth dropped away into
an uncomprehending question which felt to me as if I were seeing someone who
all his life had been accustomed to saying "No" and "Never" to other people and
geting his own way, and who suddenly for the first time had to confront the
fact that in something he wanted he had to accept that "never" applied to him
as well.
 
Overall the production had these moments of disturbing and disruptive
complexity, paradoxicaaly made possible by the extreme simplicity of the
staging which allowed and encouraged a wide range of rich and even
contradictory responses simultaneously. I hope to see a more moving and
stimulating production sometime, but I'm not holding my breath.
 
Adrian Kiernander
 

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