Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
King Lear is one of my favourite Shakespeare stories. It’s deceptive in its relatively simple premise. A King with a huge ego asks his daughters to profess their love for him in increasingly over the top ways. 2 of his daughters are all to happy to go along with this to get their share of his kingdom in exchange. The youngest and most beloved daughter knows better and won’t just say how much she loves him, as this knows the words mean nothing when said just to get his things. She gets pushed aside for this, whilst the 2 daughters who did inherit his kingdom start giving him less and less place within it, to the point where he ends up on the street with his fool and he learns what a fool he has been.
The complexity comes in the journey these characters go on and how people turn on each other when they lust for power.
This is another time big finish play both the grand fashion of Shakespeare and the reality of what the characters are going for.
Director Barnaby Edwards has assembled the most amazing cast. The endlessly wonderful David Warner is perfect as Lear. He is large when the character calls for it, but he almost throws lines away in a casual delivery, making the character seem more real-world. It’s nice to see someone playing the subtly of this. The power grabbing Goneril & Regan are also played just right by Louise Jameson & Lisa Bowerman respectively. Both are Big Finish powerhouses that never disappoint, but do at times like this shine even brighter. Finty Williams’ Cordelia is then a perfect counter point, playing the gentility and love of the daughter who actually cares. Mike Grady as the fool plays the part more down to earth than usual. Just to have a different type of fool is refreshing. Most seem to play up the largeness of the part, which is all good and well, but having a more grounded take made me tune in to every word a little more. The rest of the cast is equally as great.
It was really good to hear on the extras about the process of the adaption by Nicholas Pegg. About the 2 versions of the play, which until now I wasn’t aware of, but now I’m sure I have seen both and just though it was me misremembering scenes. Also the way they bring it to life. Although it may seem a very visual play, I can see an audio adaption can let you bring to life a wild storm and maybe a lack of visuals makes actors put making the language make the most sense in their delivery over what they can visually show to help the dialogue. The characters in all of Big Finish’s Shakespeare’s have come alive a lot more to me than in most other versions.
Getting back to the play itself, although it sometimes leaves the main story to go into side plots, nothing is waisted and everything leads back into the main story. So even though this is a 3 hour plus run time, it never feels like it.
I don’t usually go into this side of it, but even the cover design is particularly striking and modern yet within the spirit of the time.
All in all a great listen. 10/10 nunckes.
Buy King Lear now on CD or download here: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/king-lear-1679
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