It seems perfectly fitting that the first play Shakespeare BASH’d is producing after the COVID-19 lockdowns is one also written during a plague in London. The Tragedy of King Lear has been several years in the making, and it was most definitely worth the wait. Directed by James Wallis and starring Stratford Festival favourite Scott Wentworth in the titular role, The Tragedy of King Lear is a breath of fresh, Shakespearean air which I find much needed in these dreary winter months.
As faithful readers will know, I ADORE Shakespeare, and I’d been following the work of Shakespeare BASH’d for many years. I was thrilled when they asked me to come and see King Lear as I was finally able to witness one of their incredible productions. The immense talent they assembled, their impressive use of the space, and their clear love of the Bard and his work all shone through in this production and makes me wildly excited for what they’ll produce next.
I thought they made incredibly good use of the BMO Incubator space at The Theatre Centre. With a theatre-in-the-round setup, it allowed for an intimacy which I think fits the play very well. I was impressed with how they handled scenes like Gloucester’s “punishment” and the final battle between Edgar and Edmund, yet both scenes were perfectly choreographed to fit the space and the needs of the actors. The bare lightbulbs dangling from the ceiling not only provided a beautiful light to the space, but I also loved Lear and the Fool making them swing throughout the storm scenes, the dancing light creating the perfect ambiance for the viscous storm.
As I mentioned before, the talent assembled both on stage and behind the scenes is immense. Each member of the cast expertly found their characters in their beautiful lines, and you could feel the passion and joy in each and every performance. Scott Wentworth is breathtaking as King Lear; his mumbled lines at the beginning of the play foretelling the full madness that is to come. His reserved demeanour made the scenes where he did loose his temper all the more terrifying. David Mackett is a fantastic Gloucester; his performance tugs on your heartstrings in the best possible way. Mairi Babb is a fierce Kent! I thought it was fascinating having Lear’s greatest confident and enforcer played as a woman; it brought another fascinating layer to the production and Babb was perfect for the role. Madelaine Hodges, Melanie Leon, and Breanne Tice are phenomenal as Lear’s daughters; their intensity, command of the language, and vulnerability had them each well suited for their roles. Shakespeare BASH’d co-founder and co-Artistic Director Julia Nish-Lapidus is such a delightful Fool. I loved seeing that role played by a woman for SO many reasons (that could be a whole other post!), but Nish-Lapidus brought a sweetness and a joy to the role that made me smile every time she came on stage. Ngabo Nabea is such a tragic yet triumphant Edgar and I thought his portrayal of “Poor Tom” was fantastic. Deivan Steele’s Edmund was so slick and charming it is absolutely no wonder that both Goneril and Regan fall for him. Daniel Briere is a fiery Cornwall, Tristan Claxton a delightfully saucy Oswald, Steven Hao a fabulous fop of a Duke of Burgundy, and Ben Yognathan a strong, solid Albany.
The Tragedy of King Lear has a very limited run, with performances only booked until February 26th! Tickets are limited so get yours right away. I promise, you won’t want to miss this incredible production. For more information and tickets, visit: https://www.shakespearebashd.com/the-tragedy-of-king-lear.html
Mairi Babb as Kent, Scott Wentworth as Lear, Breanne Tice as Cordelia – Photo by Kyle Purcell