Performed at Upstage Centre Youth Theatre, 41 Monkgate, York
30 November – 10 December 2016
Ben Prusiner directed this fast-paced production of Shakespeare’s epic tragedy bringing the story of King Lear close to all our lives, and asking “what would you do if you lost everything?”
Lear, King of Britain, divides his kingdom among his three daughters. When his favourite, Cordelia, does not lavish him with praise, he disinherits her. The remaining daughters, Goneril and Regan, mistreat him and his mind begins to crack. Civil war looms, a foreign army invades, and loyalties are tested beyond reason. Which side would you choose?
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Cast (in alphabetical order):
Anne Brockett – Servant & Knight
Cindy Campbell – Goneril
Alexandra Claire Darlington – France, Doctor & Herald
Elizabeth Elsworth – Kent
Mic Errington – Attendant & Captain
Hannah Forsyth – Burgundy, Curan
Paul French – Lear
Andrew Isherwood – Cornwall
Sam McAvoy – First Knight
Sally Mitcham – Oswald
Carrie Morrison – Fool
David Phillips – Edmund
Matt Simpson – Albany
Emily Thane – Emma (formerly known as Edgar)
Helen Sally Apol Wilson – Gloucester
Jennie Wogan – Regan
Charlotte Wood – Cordelia
Director: Ben Prusiner
Costume Designer: Jenny Anderton
Movement Director: Fiona Baistow
Deputy Stage Manager: Izzy Carrick
Costume Assistants: Angela Cook & Joan Sinanan
Fight Captain: Hannah Forsyth
Sound Operator: Paul Hepworth
Lighting Designer & Operator: Izzy Marsh
Props Manager & ASM: Chloe Mercer
Hair/Make-Up: Rachel Pedlingham & Jodie Skerratt
Set Designer: Maggie Smales
Assistant Director: Katie Smith
Composer/Sound Designer: Alexander Sovronsky
Fight Director: Neil Tattersall
PR director: Sue Harris
In The York Press Louise Jones wrote:
YORK Shakespeare Project, founded 15 years ago, is now an established element of the cultural calendar in York, here presenting its 30th play. Taking on one of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedies, American director Ben Prusiner brings the storm with a deliciously dark production.
Building on the fragmented country we see split into portions in the opening scene, the production shows a war brewing and breaking out overtly throughout. Even our first glimpse of Lear in his military finery signals a belligerence backed in his banishment of Cordelia (Charlotte Wood), a fighting instinct which is kept until the last.
Paul French’s Lear may seem a little reserved for the first few acts but his descent into madness is all the more distressing when compared to how composed he first presents the king. Wood also brings a new confidence to such an oft-overlooked character, her Cordelia striding confidently. Alexandra Darlington accompanies her return, this time playing a nurse instead of the French monarch from the first scene- it’s interesting to see Cordelia given the same power and authority which is normally reserved for her scheming sisters.
Performed in the round, there are a few vantage points lost and some empty space as several markers are placed nearer to the audience. That said, the space is used fully for fight sequences choreographed by Neil Tattersall that burst with activity. In a decidedly more serious production, Carrie Morrison’s Fool seems somewhat out of place when decked out in bright gilets and a multicoloured “coxcomb”. Morrison’s singing voice, however, pierces the horror of the storm, a sequence created with great simple effectiveness by lighting designer Izzy Marsh and sound designer Alexander Sovronsky. Using the stark set to their advantage, the two use cracks of thunder to create a desolate wasteland for Lear to lose himself in.
Likewise, the roles of Edmund and Emma (formerly Edgar) are superbly played by David Phillipps and Emily Thane. Phillipps fully indulges in Edmund’s duplicitous deeds, his villain a strong presence at every moment on stage. Thane’s Emma, driven to desperation, remains nuanced and never feels forced. Her scenes with Gloucester (Helen Wilson) are utterly heartbreaking, and do well to inject the (originally father-son) relationship with an enhanced sense of sympathy.
Elizabeth Elsworth’s Kent is well worth a mention, not least for displaying one of the most transformed Kents I’ve seen in adaptation. Another example of how the characters come undone in Lear, it’s clear her part has been given careful consideration which pays off well. There are still some instances of stumbling over lines or across stage, but this is a strong cast who are well worth braving the elements for.