The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0381  Thursday, 16 July 2009

From:       Hannibal Hamlin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Wednesday, 15 Jul 2009 15:45:28 -0400
Subject:    Re: King Lear at the Shakespeare Theatre, Washington, DC

Dear Hardy,

My response to the Shakespeare Theater King Lear was much the same as 
yours. Keach and Gero were both very good, especially in their scenes 
together. The actresses playing the daughters were, alas, not so. Like 
you, though, my strongest criticism was of the production, which seemed 
sophomoric and self-indulgent. The best part of the production was in 
the middle, when the concept was largely abandoned, and Lear and 
Gloucester appeared in a kind of existential junkyard as homeless 
rejects. This was powerful stuff. The set was stunning, and the actors 
were left alone to do their work, which they did superbly. But it made 
me all the more irritated with the stupidity of Falls's idea to set the 
play in Yugoslavia/Bosnia. So Lear is a fascist dictator, but in a 
country where the dictatorship is determined by primogeniture? And 
instead of the soldiers of English and French armies, we have a motley 
assembly of Russian-Mafia-style thugs? At one point, the stage is 
littered with bodybags, suggesting the Killing Fields of Cambodia, but 
it's hard to know how this has anything remotely to do with 
Shakespeare's play, with its more orderly (?) war between nations. The 
dead Cordelia appears bruised and mostly naked at the end, seeming to 
have been raped as well as hanged. It's nice that Lear killed the man 
who hanged her, but why did he wait until after she was raped!? How nice 
would it be if this kind of facile "updating" of Shakespeare could be 
dispatched with! And it's not even new!! Nothing is more tired and 
rehashed than the "period" updating of Shakespeare, especially if 
jackboots and fascist banners are involved. In fact, much of Falls's 
production seemed derivative of more famous (and not necessarily 
successful) Shakespeare productions. I would have yawned if I hadn't 
been gnashing my teeth.

My wife and I went out for tapas after the show and were delighted to 
see Keach and Gero at the next table. I imagined the two of them 
grumbling about inadequate directors just as they had about venal 
Justices earlier on stage. Ah well.

Hannibal Hamlin
Associate Professor of English
The Ohio State University
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.