The feminist desecration of Shakespeare’s plays continues, but thankfully there are still a few theatre critics including Lloyd Evans prepared to tell the truth. His review of King Lear, with Glenda Jackson (80) in the title role, is in the current edition of The Spectator. Excerpts:
Deborah Warner sets the play in modern times, which muddles everything. Britain in the Dark Ages is represented by a scout hut or a therapy suite. Plain walls, bleached flooring, a semi-circle of blue plastic chairs. Enter the king’s court led by a crownless Glenda Jackson (Lear), sporting a black ensemble topped by a chic scarlet cardigan. Is this a brutal tyrant on the brink of a psychotic meltdown? Nope. It looks like Granny wearing ‘something special’ for her 80th at the care home. She and her colleagues discuss the dismemberment of the kingdom and the scene moves to a vacant warehouse with a fridge full of beer, centre-stage. It’s Goneril’s palace, apparently…
One imagines that the placement of a female in the lead role was intended to make this mad old yarn clearer and more dramatic. Consider another mad old yarn. ‘Humpty Dumpty’. Would it be clearer or more dramatic if Humpty were played not by an egg but by a satsuma? The four-hour grind reveals very little except that history dramas should be set in the past and that men play unhinged warlords better than women.
Naturally the show has delighted its target audience, the connoisseurs and the aficionados, the been-there-done-that crowd who need novelty to mask their frustration that they can never again approach Shakespeare with the feverish excitement of a novice. Hesitate for an eternity before exposing teenagers to this ordeal. Chances are you’ll convert them into lifelong Bard-dodgers.
The director, Deborah Warner, once had a woman play the lead role in Richard II, in 1995. What is wrong with these women?
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