Lear Alone

Old Joint Stock


PERFORMED by Bob Young and directed by Frank Bramwell, Lear Alone is a one man account of one of Shakespeare’s most famous roles and the journey of Lear’s life.

The production gives an insight into the inner thoughts and feelings of King Lear, exploring the role from the perspective of both an audience and an actor and goes into the heart of the character. Together, actor and audience decipher who King Lear was as we watch the changes in his mind and extreme shifts in persona.

Performed entirely by Bob Young who impressively stepped in last minute to play the role, due to the original actor withdrawing because of illness. Young performed scriptlear in hand but the part was mostly memorised at this point, impressive for a first night performance.

The performance was sometimes obscure in places as only the part of Lear was performed, naturally it seemed as if the play jumped from scene to scene. With no other characters to aid any emotional responses, the responsibility was placed entirely upon Young to find the emotive patterns within the character.

The audience were helped to follow the plot with a voiceover by Penelope Freeman who provided the parts of Goneril, Regan and Imogen. Arguably the most important character, the one with the closest relationship to Lear was absent. Cordelia had no voice and was not to be seen. Instead, there were only allusions to her presence with Young addressing her in an imaginary space on stage and holding a doll to represent her in the death scene. By taking away other character’s in the play and leaving us with Lear alone, we see the madness and torture of his soul come to light in a unique and pure way.

A tree was used upstage that hung doll-like figures in representation of other characters that Lear referred to. The fool was hanged and Cordelia constantly hung limp in a noose from a branch, reminding us of the tragic themes in Shakespeare’s work and the riddled regret of the King as his demise takes place.

The space was intimate and provided a safe place for Young to present us with his work. Although the concept of Bramwell’s mind did not shine through entirely within Young’s performance, with it being notably slow and the overall emotional journey of Lear was unclear and monotone.

But Young has taken on a great responsibility to perform the grand and complex role at extremely short notice, and to perform alone in an intimate space was highly applauded and clearly respected by every audience member.

Frank Bramwell directed well using all the space that the Old Joint Stock Theatre provides. We were seated behind an arch of candles on the floor and three boxes were used on stage to simulate a space filled with people, even though none were there. Bramwell made excellent use of the dark and eerie atmosphere with slow music as a background to Lear’s speeches throughout the production. General blocking and the ideas behind Lear’s actions were well thought out, but the piece lacked an emotional connection that the audience failed to unite with.

Even though the production was an hour long, the essence of the performance could be worked upon. Lear has many colours and extremities and it the journey to insanity was not captured as fully as one hoped. As a reading, Young was insightful and interesting, but the emotional backstory needed to shine through. To  31-07-15.

Elizabeth Halpin



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