Review :: King Lear @ Sydney Shakespeare Festival

December 3rd 2013

Kieran Forster in King Lear

As news of Blur’s BDO breakup rivaled Kerr and Bloom’s split with some A-level what-the-fuck, another festival has brought serious drama to Sydney’s shores. It’s all too much. Leave Britney alone.

Prithee, I beseech thee, lend me thine ear. It’s the Sydney Shakespeare Festival. So why are we holding a festival for a dude long dead? Because his plays are enduring? Because anyone who finished high-school was forced to study at least one of the suckers? Because actors dig this stuff and they can be pretty damn pushy?

It’s rather a subjective question. As is much of Shakespeare…. Oh, hark, hath we perchance stumbled unto the answer?

 “Theatre should ask you to invest yourself in it, to form opinions about it, to challenge yourself through it. A strong piece of theatre should always be complex enough that it inspires debate rather than agreement.” – Richard Hillier, Director

As does the Bard. Once you’ve escaped a few necessary drunken patrons (it wouldn’t be Shakespeare without a fool or two) and managed to find the hidden theatre within the beaten but charming rabbit warren that is the Old Fitzroy Hotel, strap yourself in, you are going to be well and truly challenged. King Lear is a play about greed, appearances versus reality, acceptance, love, truth. It’s a delicious, gluggy soup of infinite thematic ingredients, enticing you to dissect their flavours one by one. And what you take away, whose death you mourn and whose you cheer, is far from black and white.

5. Richard Mason, Kieran Forster, Leof Kingsford-Smith_web

Richard Mason, Kieran Forster, Leof Kingsford-Smith

The Sydney Independent Theatre Company’s King Lear grew on me as madness did the King. I hadn’t read the text, and so put the cast to the ‘will I understand this baby without the help of Sparknotes/ a modern adaptation by the BBC’ test. They passed. There was a stumble here or there, a blood bag not quite bursting there or here, but so is the unexpected and raw quality of live theatre.

Leof Kingsford-Smith gives a fantastic performance, at once irritatingly senile, hilariously mad and tragically tender to the play’s sad end.

A high-caliber, energetic cast complimented by the intimacy of the Fitz and some very minimalist but clever and effective lighting.

In the play’s closing paragraph, the words of Albany could easily be applied to our current political context, the phone tapping of certain prominent figures another divided and complicated scenario. Whether we take a political or personal message from this wise guy, whether we situate the moral in WWII, Elizabethan England or the 7 o clock news, the message rings true:

 “The weight of this sad time we must obey;

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”


WHO: Sydney Independent Theatre Company present the Sydney Shakespeare Festival

WHAT: King Lear and Measure For Measure

WHEN: 20 November – 21 December (plays on alternating nights)

WHERE: Old Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo

HOW MUCH: $32 full, $26 concession (more dealios HERE)


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