DVD Review: RSC’s King Lear

“Who is it that can tell me who I am”

Transferring stage productions onto film is something fraught with difficulties as the magic of live performance never really survives the change of medium, so something else, something slightly different has to be striven for. Trevor Nunn’s King Lear for the RSC – originated in Stratford in 2007 then toured the world before a West End season in rep with The Seagull – which stars Ian McKellen in the title role is not a filmed performance on stage, but nor is it a reconceived enhanced film version. Instead, it was filmed rather simply at Pinewood Studios, at the end of the tour, so it has the feel of a piece of theatre rather than of film, with the added bonus of being able to see the acting up close.

And what a bonus it is. McKellen is simply outstanding here. Jacobi’s Lear for the Donmar was my first ever and I couldn’t imagine it ever being bettered, Greg Hicks’ recent RSC one was just different, but this is such an incredibly visceral performance, full of anger and rage and bewilderment that is highly affecting even on screen – what it must have been like live I can’t imagine, but the camera captures every single nervy tic and nuanced touch that must have been missed in some of the larger theatres. And facing up against him is Frances Barber as Goneril in what must be one of the performances of her lifetime. She is just astounding, all kinds of manipulative, Machiavellian evil as she plots her way through the play, but almost justifiably so as the fierce tragedy carved on her face as her father curses her indicates the troubled history between father and daughter. This is the type of performance that makes you wish the sisters were featured much more in the play. Monica Dolan’s Regan is also tremendously strong, a more nervous, unhinged energy that plays out maliciously as she caresses the text languorously and Romola Garai’s Cordelia is beautifully spoken and extremely moving. Continue reading “DVD Review: RSC’s King Lear”

Review: The Mousetrap, St Martins

“I had my suspicions from the start”

One of the best things about Twitter for me has not just been connecting online with all sorts of new theatrical buddies but actually taking the next step and meeting up with them to share our mutual passion for theatre. So when the ever-fragrant @pcchan1981 suggested a group trip to see Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap for those who had not previously had the pleasure, six of us made our way to the St Martins Theatre for a Saturday matinée.

The statistics accompanying this show are frankly ridiculous: over 23,000 performances over 59 years which makes it the longest running show of any kind in the world, an all-the-more impressive scenario when one considers that it is a murder mystery that relies on the discretion of its viewers to not give away exactly whodunit – indeed, at the curtain call we are exhorted not to reveal the identity(s) of the guilty party(s). But is it a show worthy of its long-running status? Continue reading “Review: The Mousetrap, St Martins”