Friday, July 18, 2008

King Lear at Shakespeare's Globe

It was a straight performance of King Lear at the Globe, no modernizing, adaptation into another culture, or abridging (as far as I could tell), which is appropriate, of course, in this re-creation of a theater Shakespeare wrote for and acted in. David Calder was a powerful and moving King Lear; his eyes were especially expressive. He was completely convincing in his physical and mental deterioration. Sally Breton was malicious anger as Goneril, while Kellie Bright distinguished Regan with an oily manner, which hid a vicious and sensual nature. She bit Gloucester's eye out. Jodie McNee was unsympathetic as Cordelia; she managed to make that saint come across as a busybody. Daniel Hawksford, as Edmund, played for laughs at a few points, and made the character incoherent. Trystan Gravelle, black-haired Welsh opposite Hawskford's blond, played Edgar with a certain nobility, but spat out his lines too quickly. All of them were directed by Dominic Dromgoole, the Artistic Director of the Globe.

Particularly interesting was the "Celtic" music played for this pre-Christian drama. The instruments--voice, shawms, bagpipes, sackbuts, long trumpets, recorder, drums, oud, hurdy-gurdy and symphony--were related to their forebears in Anglo-Saxon England, such as the bone flutes, carnyxes (or war horns), harps and lyres which were brought over from Scandinavia. The music material was created from a variety of sources, the most important of which was the harp music transcribed by the Welsh harpist Robert ap Huw. The melodies and rhythmic style came mainly from ancient Norwegian songs and dances ('Springleiks' and 'Gammeldans'). A female ballad singer, an idea Irish in origin, combined the voice of narrator, commentary and bard. She spoke her commentary in old English, using words from "The Wanderer" and "The Seafarer" OE poems. 

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