last year, the American teenagers sitting behind me were beyond thrilled to be seeing Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as the King. So it's apt that this year's tour will take in a number of US venues, as Joseph Marcell returns to Bill Buckhurst's production, and hopefully more teenagers will find a love of Shakespeare through a beloved figure from their childhood TV. I rarely return to a production unless it's outstanding, but the Globe feels like such a major part of my summer it tends to get a free pass, and although not perfect this Lear was good enough for another look. I did economise on the high prices by trying out the slightly cheaper, restricted view Gentlemen's Room seats; it was a good choice and I'll probably repeat it next year, as I avoided getting a seat too far round so didn't spend the whole time looking at the backs of the actors' heads.
Returning alongside Marcell are Bethan Cullinane and Shanaya Rafaat as his younger daughters. New to the production are John Stahl (Gloucester and Albany,) Daniel Pirrie (Edmund and Oswald,) Alex Mugnaioni (Edgar and Cornwall,) Bill Nash as Kent and Gwendolen Chatfield as Goneril.
My thoughts on the show remain much the same as last year, although Nash's Kent has a lot more presence, and Stahl is a good addition to any cast. As the king who gives away his power, Marcell is more unpredictably stroppy than dangerously tyrannical, and his performance often brings out the comedy within the tragedy.
I still think the tiny cast and resultant, high-speed doubling makes clarity an issue - I sometimes feel like I may be patronising audience members unfamiliar with the play by assuming they can't follow it, but in this case I know I'm right: Once again all the interval conversations I overheard were trying to piece together exactly who was who. So a newcomer to the play won't come out of this production knowing it in any great detail, but they'll get the broad strokes of the plot and enjoy themselves regardless.
King Lear by William Shakespeare is booking in repertory until the 23rd of August at Shakespeare's Globe; then continuing on tour to Richmond (N. Yorkshire,) Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Santa Fe, Santa Monica, San Luis Obispo and Arcata CA.
Running time: 3 hours including interval.