I did not blog about it since I saw it, but I thought I would write now about the production of King Lear by Sam Mendes for the National Theatre, especially about Simon Russell Beale in the title role. Long story short: seen it, loved it. I did not appreciate it as much as I could as I watched in an evening of the week and I was tired, so I am considering seeing it again. There are still tickets available and performances will end in early July, by the way. So you can see for yourself.
What sold me this production and made me rediscover the play is the performance of Beale. He plays Lear first as an aging dictator eager to enjoy his retirement, but nevertheless prone to fits of anger, this destructive wrath old age and power could bring to such a man. In the other production I saw, years ago, Lear was depicted as an elderly king, whose old age made him capricious. I think this is how he is often perceived in productions, I may be wrong. In this one, he is a hard, feared military leader, stripped slowly from his power, social stature and wealth by his daughters, who do have motivations to get back at him, to finally become a bitter old man and finally a madman. Beale then plays him as suffering from senile dementia, losing his inhibitions, trembling, becoming confused and restless. This is a stroke of genius. Lear's descent into madness is both unsettling and fascinating. His vulnerability forces us to sympathizes with the former tyrant and to face an illness that might be our own one day.
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