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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: September ::
Re: Globe Lear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2126  Friday, 7 September 2001

[1]     From:   Laura Blankenship <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 07:54:40 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.2117 Globe Lear

[2]     From:   Louis Swilley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 08:34:27 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2117 Globe Lear

[3]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Thursday, 06 Sep 2001 14:19:34 +0000
        Subj:   Cheap seats just clap.

[4]     From:   Dan Smith <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 16:34:15 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2117 Globe Lear

[5]     From:   Dan Smith <
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        Date:   Friday, 7 Sep 2001 00:12:00 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2117 Globe Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Laura Blankenship <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 07:54:40 -0500
Subject: 12.2117 Globe Lear
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.2117 Globe Lear

>My  two questions are:
>
>what was that  pole and wheel for?

According to Julian Glover, it was a wheel of fortune.  I like the
torture wheel idea better.  Either way, I don't think it was used to
good effect.

>and did anyone else find the sandbox in which Lear's chair was placed
>completely distracting for the Cordelia/Lear  rediscovery? it was OK for
>dividing the kingdom but by the late scenes in the play was a liability
>I thought.

My theory is that it represented the shambles of the kingdom as a result
of Lear's treatment of Cordelia.  I didn't like the waking scene done on
it at all.  I just didn't think it was powerful enough to evoke my
sympathy.  Admittedly, it is a difficult scene to pull off without
lapsing into sentimentality, but I still think the production I saw
didn't play well.

Laura Blankenship

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis Swilley <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 08:34:27 -0500
Subject: 12.2117 Globe Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2117 Globe Lear

Mary Jane Miller wrote,

" I don't remember the [audience ]vote [for Goneril or Regan] the day I
was there but the  Fool stole a beer from the groundlings and the
knights playing football through the crowd included them in play... and
did anyone else find the sandbox in which Lear's chair was placed
completely distracting for the Cordelia/Lear  rediscovery? it was OK for
dividing the kingdom but by the late scenes in the play was a liability
I thought....[W]e admired the actor playing King Lear for stripping off
his clothes and doing most of act III in a loincloth when it was very
cold and damp. It didn't seem too literal, just effective."

Isn't there a very sensible, general rule in theater that anything that
distracts from the character and makes us conscious of the actor - or
audience - is at least a dangerous idea, since its effect is
uncontrollable by the actor or director?  Interesting, too, that in the
"Lear" production, reported her by Ms. Miller, there are perhaps two
different kinds of audience "participation": 1) in the case of the
knights playing football through the audience, the suggestion is that
the audience, too, shares responsibility for the action presented;  in
which case might they not, with perfect justification, run onto the
stage and give the characters - including Lear and Cordelia - a good
slap or two for their tragic silliness?  2) The Lear actor stripping is
different, isn't it?  The audience is not responsible but merely
distracted, and now considers the plight of the actor instead of that of
Lear -  and how is this different from the audience's painful awareness
of an actor's inadequate and therefore embarrassing performance?

I don't know quite what to think of this phenomena of audience
"participation" and breaking the veil of illusion on which, finally,
every theatrical presentation must depend. I remember an all-male
production of "As You Like It," wherein a male actor playing a woman for
the purpose of the immediate presentation, plays within that the role of
a man. The audience-mind was set in tumbles as it was irresistibly
tossed back and forth between the man-woman play and the man-man
"play".  In this particular dramatic work, the tossing about seemed a
proper part of the essential argument offered by Shakespeare. But is
that so in theatrical situations such as Ms. Miller reports?

        L. Swilley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Thursday, 06 Sep 2001 14:19:34 +0000
Subject:        Cheap seats just clap.

Mz Miller ,picking up some remarks of Mr Weis and adding some of her own
on the London Globe Lear, writes (in extraction)

>the Globe's proclivity to try to make
>to audience an active participant, /...> the Fool stole a beer
>from the groundlings and the knights playing football through the crowd
>included them in play. .../...Hanging the fool in the Within  demonstrate
the problems with the sightlines / ...
>Covering that gorgeous stage with barn board seemed rather wasteful - /...>
>what was that pole and wheel for/.....the sandbox in which Lear's chair was
placedcompletely distracting for the Cordelia/Lear rediscovery?

I respond:

These are all excellent points about the Lear production which raise
general ones about the proclivity of the Globe to "engage" through
"devices" and the focus for this to be the "groundlings". It may be the
case that the structure and ambience of the building are sufficient to
satisfy this objective and that these additions cloy the appetite. But
ultimately the play's the thing. The railway sleepers distracted from
the Globe's jewel box decore but provided an appropriate starkness of
tone which was , in any case, achieved through acting. (The Fool doing
George Formby took a bit of explaining to anyone under 50 by the way!
Conversely, Caliban's constant tete-a-tete with the groundlings in the
recent Tempest offered the prospect of the shade of  Kempe - begging
Armin's pardon - strutting his hour, which took a bit of explaining to
anyone under 350!)

The Globe is so very, very new and trying so many, many different things
that innovation occasionally o'erleaps itself.  As exciting as an early
Beatles concert...and at a fiver similar in cost. How lucky can we be?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan Smith <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Sep 2001 16:34:15 +0100
Subject: 12.2117 Globe Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2117 Globe Lear

>and did anyone else find the sandbox in which Lear's chair was placed
>completely distracting for the Cordelia/Lear  rediscovery? it was OK for
>dividing the kingdom but by the late scenes in the play was a liability
>I thought.

I noted the sandbox for the division of the kingdom and I recollect it
underneath Lear as the storm engulfed him.  However, I missed the
sandbox totally at this point.  I assume that you saw it in Act V Sc.iii
"Come, let's away to prison; We two alone will sing like birds
i'th'cage."  I do warm to the image of the sandbox generally however,
and if it was present during this scene I can see some logic to it being
there.  I find the symbolism apt of a kingdom of sand that the next tide
will wash away.  When the storm comes and the water lands in the sandpit
it prefigures the dissolution of the kingdom that  Lear's lack of wisdom
is about to cause.  Sand also absorbs whatever is poured onto it, rain,
tears, blood and hence seems like a metaphor for the apparent futility
of suffering. As for ActV Sc.iii (if that is where it was) he is saying,
"we can live like this" but he is trying to build a house on sand like
the biblical allegory.  The other king that comes to mind with his
throne on the sand was Canute, who found he could not command the tide.
I have heard it said that Canute did this to indicate the limits of his
power to his courtiers and illustrate the gulf between the power of a
human king and the absolute power to command the sea (and perhaps love
too) - this sounds like the matter of Lear to me, the wisdom (or its
lack) to know the limits of temporal power.

> However we enjoyed the production as a whole and admired the actor
> playing King Lear for stripping off his clothes

Absolutely, hats off to the man in the loincloth - though myself, I'd
rather not part with too much else on a cold and rainy day.

Dan Smith

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan Smith <
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Date:           Friday, 7 Sep 2001 00:12:00 +0100
Subject: 12.2117 Globe Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2117 Globe Lear

> and did anyone else find the sandbox in which Lear's chair was placed
> completely distracting for the Cordelia/Lear  rediscovery?

I suppose the most obvious association with a sandbox that completely
passed me by to start with is of children playing in a sandpit. Lear has
returned (possibly due to dementia?) in part to a second childhood so
the sandbox, and his loincloth nappy, could symbolise this in this
production.

Dan Smith

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