Theatre: King Lear (in Scotland)

David Hayman

As the World Shakespeare Festival kicks off in Stratford, we sent critic MARK BERMAN north to discover how the playwright fares in Glasgow

King Lear
Citizens Theatre

It is not only Stratford that can do Shakespeare.

Actor David Hayman brings King Lear’s folly of hubris and age to the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. And he does it without patronising the city with the usual traces of Rab C Nesbitt or a whiff of deep fried Mars bars.

His depiction of the old king is of a spoiled and out of touch Lear. Occasional acrobatic leaps onto a table demonstrate that he must have, in his time, been a formidable foe. And possibly could have remained so if he hadn’t  gone to seed.

As for his trio of daughters- they finally tell him enough is enough, not because of his greedy selfishness but because, as his fool confirms, he simply deserves it. Allowing a drunken rabble into your home is not acceptable anywhere.

Hayman’s Lear’s endures a slow trip into madness. I suddenly realised that it was not one day he was X and the next Y. But in the sluggishness of time in a world that was changing around him, any man becomes inevitably smaller and older and loses the nimbleness to control others. Or at least leap on to a table.

The production comes as we all watch Rupert Murdoch on the television. There are similarities: we see an aging man losing it and sycophants denying  old ties and associations. Murdoch will have no Kent or Edgar to rescue him. And, I think, as in Lear, the sycophants will fare no better than their leader.

The production’s set is simple yet powerful, developing a balance of modernity with the feeling of what must have been large open spaces in a castle with little heating, light or  even a wireless laptop for comfort. And a great added touch is live percussion and an open string piano.

It’s worth the trip north. And I can provide a bed to anyone wanting a trip up. Well, maybe.

Until 12th May
Tix: 0141 429 0022