It is when you have to travel to Cork to see a touring King Lear, that the long delay at the Theatre Royal comes home to you. Alan Stanford’s fine Second Age Theatre Company are touring a first rate King Lear with a world star, Gerard Murphy, in the title role and Catherine Cusack, of the famous theatrical family, as Goneril. It was an amazing buss to see Murphy on stage and the recently renovated Everyman Palace looks excellent in rich reds and ornate golden fittings from the Dan Lowry era of entertainment. This refit happened mostly to budget and within the timeframe as to Cork people – time is money and if you lose an audience someone else benefits.
I was there a night when the house was wall to patterned wall with secondary schoolgoers who provided a sort of banter at kissing scenes, eye gouging scenes and the like. This recreated the mood of the pit back in Shakespeare’s time and mostly these young people were held in thrall by fine dramatic action and a cracking pace. This was throngingly live theatre and the better for it.
The ageless tale done in a mix of modern dress and leathers caught the madness of Lear and the madness of the setting as a father divided up a Kingdom between three sisters. The closing lines – speak what we feel not what we ought to say – took on an ironic contemporary direction about power politics, greed, banking loyalty, family values and sibling rivalry. There are few survivors in this tragedy about lack of truth and the desolation brought about by greed and self-serving inhumanity. The story of a blind and ruined generation built on empty rhetoric and dishonesty was cutting in its accuracy.
Declan Mills was an excellent Fool and David Heap as the blinded Gloucester was an education in action and reaction. Liam Hourican was a crowd-pleasing Edmund.
Gerard Murphy of RSC towered over this production and his moods and rages were measured but chilling and his disintegration into madness was powerful to experience. It was a great pleasure to see and feel such an iconic actor in such an iconic role.
Everyman Palace have an excellent forward programme and a special offer each week for €15 tickets in a city where plays cost about €25 and musicals €41 and Grand Opera House €56. Marina Carr’s Woman And Scarecrow is on the end of March and Druid’s The New Electric Ballroom by Enda Walsh comes in April. (This paper ran a review of it back in July last year, when it opened at the Galway Arts Festival). A lot of Everyman’s drive is down to the hard work of PR Sarah Dee.