RR LogoKing Lear headline

King Lear Photo 1William Shakespeare’s King Lear has continued to live on, centuries after the bard first conceived the play, and one might correctly conclude that the timeless themes of family disputes over inheritance, evil plots and conniving against other family members, have contributed to the play’s longevity. As long as good theater companies such as Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach continue to present King Lear, we can reasonably expect that the play will continue to live on for many more centuries. Led by a sterling performance by Christopher Gaze as King Lear, the outstanding Tiffany Lyndall-Knight as Regan, an equally superb bit of acting by Lois Anderson as Goneril, the hilarious Patti Allan as Lear’s nurse and the expressive Robert Moloney as Edmund, the cast turned in an outstanding effort, before a sold out house.

I must confess that I am not normally a fan of taking Shakespeare’s works and placing them into more contemporary settings, however director James Fagan Tait, made a believer out of me by staying true to the speech and the feel of Shakespeare’s play. He simply used the set and props to suggest a more modern setting, but with the exception of directing this fine company of actors, kept his hands off the plot and the essential elements of the play. 

For those not familiar with King Lear, the essence of the story, without giving away the ending, goes something like this, Lear is old and fading fast, two of his three daughters Goneril and Regan vie for his attention and therefore for a good chunk of his kingdom, when the old guy finally takes his last breath. Lear, even in poor health is a pompous, cantankerous old codger who cuts his third daughter Cordelia (Melissa Poll) completely out of the will because she refuses to heap adulation upon her father.

There are plenty of subplots including Edmund the bastard son of Gloucester setting out to reclaim land his father gave to his legitimate son Edgar. Goneril plots against her father and Regan is outright evil. The depiction of violence and torture in one scene is so vividly depicted by the actors, that if you are prone to anxiety attacks or subject to feeling squeamish, you may want to prepare yourself as the play progresses. As if Shakespeare did not have enough going on to keep us focused, he just happens to throw in a war between the Earl of Kent (Gerry Mackay) and the Earl of Gloucester (Christopher Weddell), and to think they seemed like such pleasant chaps when we first got to know them. The supporting actors are outfitted in battle fatigues and berets. The playwright also introduces friction between France and England. Is your head spinning yet?

Rather than relying on recorded music, the company, under the direction of award winning composer / music director and musician Joelysa Pankanea incorporated hand played instruments, including a vibraphone, double bass, djembe and several acoustic guitars. Since we do not have the names of all the fine musicians, we will just collectively give them the thumbs up. These artists were fabulous in conveying the many moods as King Lear unfolded.

Shakespeare’s use of clever lines to instill humor in his plays, is once again evident in King Lear, and the riotous performance of Patti Allan, as well as Christopher Gaze’s ability to authenticate a deranged King Lear, make this production all that more enjoyable. It is not anything personal Christopher, but you really do a good job of presenting a madman.

King Lear runs until September 26th. This is Bard on the Beach’s nineteenth season of producing affordable and high quality theater. In addition to King Lear, the company is also currently staging several other productions. Click here for tickets information and more information.  


Photo:  Tiffany Lyndall Knight as Regan and Lois Anderson as Goneril