King Lear review: Kenneth Branagh's cut-back play leaves HIM looking like the fool, writes PATRICK MARMION

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By Patrick Marmion

Published: 18:09 EDT, 31 October 2023 | Updated: 22:08 EDT, 31 October 2023

KING LEAR

Wyndham's Theatre, London 

Rating:

As nan erstwhile US President Abe Lincoln erstwhile wisely remarked, a man who represents himself successful tribunal has a fool for a client.

Well, Sir Kenneth Branagh whitethorn not precisely beryllium appearing successful court, but by choosing to nonstop himself successful nan title domiciled of what's usually cited arsenic Shakespeare's astir challenging play (which opened successful nan West End past night), he has surely fitted himself pinch a figurative jester's coxcomb.

Even though nan matter has been slashed from 3 hours-plus to a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am 2 hours (without interval), it's clear early connected that we're successful for a very agelong night.

By hacking backmost nan Bard's communicative of an ancient Celtic monarch surrendering his kingdom to wicked daughters, he lays discarded to nan logic of chicanery and betrayals that lead Lear into madness and raging connected a storm-blasted heath.

Set connected what looks for illustration Stonehenge, nether a elephantine oculus connected which upwind systems and nan beingness itself are projected, Branagh assails nan play pinch manly fortitude. Not contented pinch beating nan boards portentously pinch a heavy Neolithic stave, he sees to it that each character strikes each missive and syllable of each connection for illustration a Rank cinema gong.

Sir Kenneth Branagh whitethorn not precisely beryllium appearing successful court, but by choosing to nonstop himself successful nan title domiciled of what's usually cited arsenic Shakespeare's astir challenging play (which opened successful nan West End past night), he has surely fitted himself pinch a figurative jester's coxcomb

Set connected what looks for illustration Stonehenge, nether a elephantine oculus connected which upwind systems and nan beingness itself are projected, Branagh assails nan play pinch manly fortitude. Not contented pinch beating nan boards portentously pinch a heavy Neolithic stave, he sees to it that each character strikes each missive and syllable of each connection for illustration a Rank cinema gong 

By hacking backmost nan Bard's communicative of an ancient Celtic monarch surrendering his kingdom to wicked daughters, he lays discarded to nan logic of chicanery and betrayals that lead Lear into madness and raging connected a storm-blasted heath

It's a capacity of fearless virility, giving nary hint arsenic to why this hale and hearty monarch mightiness want to retire.

While location are moments erstwhile Branagh seems to announcement different actors connected stage, his Lear appears to beryllium trapped successful his ain backstage bubble. Exhibiting neither frailty nor vulnerability, he robs america of immoderate ground for sympathy.

Without nan guidance of an independent director, Lear's wicked daughters Goneril and Regan (played by caller Rada graduates Deborah Alli and Melanie-Joyce Bermudez) are hung retired to barren and turned into a bemused brace of self-serving sexpots. At 1 point, Branagh virtually stands successful nan measurement of Jessica Revell arsenic she struggles to untangle nan painfully convoluted gags of Lear's beloved Fool. But she's besides tasked pinch playing Lear's bully girl Cordelia, successful whom Branagh shows small interest.

Corey Mylchreest is astatine slightest hunky and impressively contemptuous arsenic nan mischievous bastard Edmund. But nan astir honorable move is from Joseph Kloska, who finds bewilderment, strength and pathos successful Lear's loyal protagonist Gloucester – nan man who loses his eyes for his trouble.

Clearly nether instructions to get a move on, actors are often seen connected shape for nan adjacent scene, earlier nan past 1 is over. Not only confusing, by trying to fast-track nan play's epic affectional journey, nan spectacle becomes ever much bizarre and uncomfortable to watch. Branagh has galore awesome Shakespearean roles connected his CV, from Hamlet to Macbeth, but this raving regent alas seems beyond our mortal Ken.


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