Thursday, 26 July 2012

King Lear, Rendlesham Forest

Here I am, back at the hippy festival, sat in a field, thinking, Isn't wireless amazing?

At the press of a button I can hear disembodied voices talking to me, all the way from BBC Suffolk!

After listening to the kerfuffle about the shameful graffiti on Wolsey's Gate, a speaker says, in passing, that  King Lear has been spotted running about Rendlesham Forest.

Communications in a field being what they are these days, I'm straight tapping the ipad to check availability before calling the box office on the mobile to book us tickets.

The wonders of modern technology! Thanks to the inventions of the twenty-first century, we spend the evening in company with BFF Elle and Kate at the Theatre in the Forest, watching the most bizarre representation of King Lear I've ever seen.

Not for you, if you like your Shakespeare dark, deep, and from the 1600s.

In this version by Red Rose Chain, King Lear rides a pimped up mobility scooter and is dressed like a clowning eighteenth century courtesan. Does that go some way to suggest the style?

Yes, of course this enthusiastic and spirited cast lack the venerable age of years to pull off the horrible despair and revelation King Lear experiences. I get the feeling this team would represent catharsis by an NHS tube and a bladder bag. The blinding of Gloucester was done via laser beams, and the Fool was represented by a ventriloquist's dummy.

But if you enjoy mischievous creativity, provocative shows, and youthful fun in a forest, then you must see it.

The off-beat presentation of this weighty play held our summer holiday audience without trouble. The style helped draw out the play's references to what duties belong to a child/parent and king/subject. The cast found new ways of telling the story and they taught a message to the kids. Edgar leans over to a five-year old in the front row, wags a finger and says sagely, Obey thy parents. Greeted by laughter. Comedy? Sure. It's not often you get that in King Lear.

But best of all, this energetic, part slapstick performance introduced new ideas for my group of mini Shakespeare scholars. The ventriloquist's dummy nearly worked. It became a symbol of child dependency, a portentous sign of madness, an expression of touching vulnerability, and a downright spooky moment of malevolence.

Go on, get out your computers, ipads, phones, Google map directions, picnic hampers, and midge repellent spray, then spend an evening in a forest being entertained by the unlikely comedy/tragedy King Lear.

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