Discussing Lear, Anthony Sher said he thinks the play is about becoming human and this is in my opinion his biggest achievement in this RSC production. We are confronted with a king that transmutes from a demi-god to a sorrowful father and an individual aware of the inexorability of time and the folly of it all. Yet, not even at the end and deep into his unpredictable ‘madness’ Lear can completely cast way his mighty tone. Sher’s portray of the king is impressive, disturbing and, above all, powerful. His slow delivery ads an almost unbearable weight to his words and his mood swings keep us on a constant state of agonizing tension throughout the play. Absolutely brilliant.
Paapa Essiedu rendering of Edmund is a fine work indeed; his wickedness and bitter irony often extracted laughs from the audience, which, if you think about it, perhaps tells us something highly disturbing about ourselves. I was also impressed by Oliver Johnstones’ Edgar/Poor Tom but much less so by Natalie Simpson as Cordelia who I thought quite unconvincing. I could almost sympathize with Lear for not believing her professions of filial love at the beginning of the play. Although her return to the stage at the end is more substantial, I think Simpson has done a much better job out of Ophelia.
All in all, Gregory Doran’s production of King Lear is as deep, moving and disturbing as Shakespeare has probably intended it to be.