‘Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away’
‘Gimme Shelter’ by the Rolling Stones, played by the Band of Bastards, was proleptically playing, a spotlight was shone in the middle of the stage illuminating a figure tied to a chair and jarring images of the USA projected onto the backdrop, as the audience funnelled into the Arts One theatre for QMTC’s modern, Godfellas-esque production of ‘King Lear’ written by Chris Field and directed by him and Eloina Haines.
All of a sudden three masked figures, aptly named the Gang of Three, including: Enobong Bassey, Stephanie Overington and Ben Robinson, resembling actors from the Purge, attacked the figure on stage and drill out their victim’s eyes. It was then clear that this production of the bard’s famous play began in the middle. The victim? Gloucester, portrayed by Hannah Burke.
The play then jumps between the past and present, giving insight into how the events of the plot came to be and conclude, with interludes of dance by, Lucy Doncaster, Kerry Hunt, Chrisanthi Livadiotis, Emily Redpath, Max Griggs and Weronika Appel, and music performed by the band, with Jack Ridley (Guitar/Vocals), Clara Moschetta (Keys/Vocals), Jordan Bassett (Bass), Stephanie Masserick (Saxophone) and James Garnham (Drums).
‘New York is burning.’
Cornwall and Regan
With the newly affiliated Shakespeare Society, on the 17th and 18th of February, QMTC put on two adaptations, either true to or influenced by Mr Shakespeare, they performed ‘Don Lear’ and ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’.
This adaptation of ‘King Lear’ retains many of the key original plotlines, from Goneril (Bea Olivier) and Regan’s (Alysha Nelson) competition for Don Lear’s (James Jackson) throne and Edmund’s (Ibrahim Amaev) heart. It also includes Gloucester and his fractious relationship with his two sons, Edgar/Poor Tom (Melissa Rutnagur) and Edmund.
It also portrayed character qualities, for example, Cornwall’s (Aidan Parsons) cut-throat, egotistical, attitude and domineering presence, true to Shakespeare’s work. This contrasted well with Mariella Bucci’s portrayal of Albany as the subjugated and cuckolded husband. They also excellently expanded and deepened Regan’s malicious intentions. For the majority of Act 1, she appears to be the meek and victimized wife, Cornwall emphatically says he ‘owns her’ and snorts coke off her shoulder in a sexualized and domineering manner in a club. However, at the end of Act 1, The Gang of Three, on the behest of Regan, slaughter everyone in the above mentioned club, except Edmund. Thus, the Act ends with Regan, stood centre stage with a piercing gaze.
The slick and debauched world of New York Mafiosi families was an interesting, fitted, setting and twist on the 16th century play, originally set in Arthurian Britain. Costumes, music, voices, even lighting, perfectly set the stage for this ‘empire of crime and sin’ which has a war, pitting wife against husband, sister against sister and father against son, brewing.
Edgar/Poor Tom and Gloucester
The acting ability and naturalness of Hannah Burke and Aidan Parsons really stuck out throughout the play.
In my opinion, however, there were a couple of things which did not quite work. Although the dance was well choreographed, full of enthusiasm and style, it, particularly its quantity, did not seem to work quite right with the tragic, warped, and dark atmosphere of the traditional production. Gig-theatre is the newest trend in productions, and it can work in tragic plays, but in this instance, it occasionally, seemed a bit more ‘Hairspray’ than a nihilistic apocalyptic world. This also rang true with the ending, although Cordelia suffers the death of her beloved France, and in this, they have a child, it is anticlimactic and this, along with Lear’s death did not evoke the crippling empathy Lear’s and Cordelia’s deaths do in their original state.
Furthermore, in some cases, although characters retained their names and, theoretically, their actions, there was too much of a change to some that they, to some extent, were no longer comparable to their initial, and more fitting, portrayals.
Overall, the concept, setting, and certain additions worked well and showcased an interesting take on the famous tragedy. However, in trying so hard to make it different and their own adaptation at times it was slightly out of touch and misinterpreted from the original production.