A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Sunday, 28 September 2014

King Lear in Stratford (not upon-Avon). Was this Film of Theater?

There have been three exciting months of philosophy, besides the necessary settling on the new continent, and I decided that it was high time to experience a little bit of the culture in the neighbourhood. Stratford is a picturesque small town in the North of London Ontario, where a famous summer theatre festival takes place, famous in the entire North America. Shakespeare's King Lear had received many good reviews and I was eager to experience some Shakespeare on this side of the ocean. The last amazing direction of Shakespeare I still have in memory was Kenneth Branagh's Macbeth, an excellent production and direction: theatre was theatre even if screened for the ones who were not in Manchester.

On the contrary, I found Stratford's production really disappointing: the most dazzling costumes that I ever saw on stage, with the actors and actresses hiding or vanishing in them (one exception: the fool). King Lear was trying to play theatre but kept on playing a film role, and was trying and trying to get into his role, but, as I see it, and even if he came close to this achievement twice, to no avail. I was told that I have missed Christopher Plummer in Shakespearean roles. A pity!

There were some interesting (British English) touches that the director added, but I do not find them worth mentioning given the overall negative framework. Perhaps only the following: There were actors who represented homeless people on the stage, accompanying and interacting with the main actors and actresses, in silence. This I found interesting (Amer. Engl.), not because it turns Shakespeare into our contemporary, but because it makes him even better-rooted in the old tradition: recall the wondrous song that the chorus sings in Sophocles' Antigone about the deinon of our being human, our terrifying human condition.

Now I will happily return to philosophy and classes, confident that I am not missing too much, after all, regarding culture in the immediate North American neighbourhood. No conclusions are yet to be drawn, of course, since the experiences have been too restricted. Toronto has not been explored, and New York, which I will be visiting soon for the conference of the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy, has to offer thriving culture and an abundance of suchlike events, and, therefore, some welcome variety in the schedule.

From King Lear, Act 1 Scene 1:

...And here are to be answer'd. Tell me, my daughters,--
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state,--
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge...
...[Aside] What shall Cordelia do?
Love, and be silent.

PS: I have offered myself a "cure" with the aid of Laurence Olivier's version of King Lear, in the meantime. And so the experience in Stratford becomes nothing but a means to an end: the discovery of the renowned masterpiece. There is well-deserved fame and fanciful fame, after all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i believe i already told you where to get good theater on this side of the pond :-) Sorry about your sad, dispiriting and ultimately tragic viewing of King Lear. Sometimes life doesn't reward those who love the good, and instead blinds those who might have acted well.

14 October 2014 at 04:57  
Blogger Georgia Mouroutsou said...

Oh dear! No tragic experience, just a bad one indeed. As ever we are able to turn our attention to all the beautiful things around, including the ones that are yet to come: restricting myself to culture, how nice it is to be looking forward to the next Branagh and the next Daniel! And how instrumentally good it is that less inspiring experiences help us realize how beautiful other works are, ugliness being just an accident or a means to an end.

PS: On another note and on a totally different level: I really think that the ones who love the good in word and deed are able to see how life rewards them: by applying different measures from the ones in accordance to which others understand the meaning of "paying off" in their lives.

17 October 2014 at 16:29  

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