We went to see the National Theatre’s Live transmission of King Lear last Thursday 1st May 2014 at The Edge, Much Wenlock. It was brilliant, just brilliant Two days later and we have not fully recovered. We left the local community lecture theatre where it was shown, exhausted and drained by the sheer intensity of the production – in tears not of sentimentality but of identification with the horror of the unfolding and inescapable tragedy. Simon Russell Beale as Lear was fantastic but the whole cast were superb – it would be unfair to identify any other individual. The portrayal of Lear as an old man slowly losing his grip on reality, losing the ability to think clearly and consistently, losing memory, but having brief moments of awareness as his brain deteriorates was so real – so recognisable to the loved ones of old people with developing dementia as the inexorable downward spiral separates and isolates them – yet with those odd surprising flashes of recognition and apparent lucidity which are fleeting and momentary. The physical movements were modelled on a study of the symptoms of a particular form of Alzheimers – quivering hands and jerky gait. The direction of the televising was the best we have ever seen. The balance of full stage, to group and close-up shots was exemplary.
Once again brilliant.
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We should be proud of our heritage, ability and committment to such great art. We should never forget the need to support the work of our great public ballet, opera, and theatre companies, libraries museums and art galleries. That support requires courage and committment from both central and local government. There is no point in cutting all public spending to the bone (and beyond) in order to keep local and central taxation at the medium to high income levels low (and hence popular) if in the process our rich heritage is destroyed forever. (Note: The Conservative Government celebrated the fact that they were looking after ‘the people’ (the ‘common’ people?) in the last budget by reducing the price of beer and bingo – while continuing to drive funding agencies and local government to close public libraries and emaciate arts funding across the board).