When I booked the tickets for the RSC's King Lear back in summer it seemed like an age to wait but in the blink of an eye the months have passed. Arriving excited with anticipation at the New London Theatre there were posters warning us that the play contained loud gun-shots and brief nudity. J and I both joked that as long as it wasn't Ian McKellan who was getting his kit off, that would be fine.
McKellan plays the aged King who decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters and with the usual doses of jealousy, plotting and misunderstandings sprinkled with a bit madness and violence it all ends tragically.
I'm fond of good tragedy and in particular Shakespeare's but this storyline didn't really move me and left me feeling that most of the characters got what they deserved. Perhaps it was the way it was played and that is no way a criticism of the acting which was generally superb.
It sounds like I didn't enjoy it but I really did and almost entirely because of McKellan who's performance was mesmerising. He is a true King of Shakespearean acting, put him and Patrick Stewart on the stage together and the rest of the cast might as well stay in their dressing rooms.
Other notable performances came from Sylvester McCoy who played The Fool and was unceremoniously and rather shockingly hung just before the interval. (His 'body' was retrieved by stage hands during the interval which some in the audience felt deserved an applause.)
Frances Barber who I've seen playing Mrs Coulter in the Dark Materials at the National was an excellently selfish and manipulative Goneril, the eldest daughter.
The jury is still out on Romola Garai (seen recently in the film Atonement) who played the youngest daughter Cordelia and the chief victim of the tragedy. Many actors have said baddies are more fun to play and maybe it's because she's a goody that she didn't get the chance to shine, I don't know, I'd have to see another actress play the part to really judge.
This probably only makes sense to me but while the story didn't move me in the same way that say Hamlet or Othello does the performance itself was utterly engaging.
And oh yes I nearly forgot, the nudity. Well it wasn't what I'd describe as brief and despite the warning it was far more shocking than Equus . What I will say is that Gandalf's is bigger than Harry Potter's.