King Lear, Television Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: Don Warrington, Alfred Enoch, Mitos Yerolemou, Pepter Lunkuse, Rakie Ayola, Fraser Ayres, Norman Bowman, Thomas Coombes, Wil Johnson, Debbie Korley, Philip Whitchurch, Mark Springer, Rhys Bevan, Miles Mitchell, Sarah Quist, Sam Glen.

There are times when television isn’t brave enough to stand up to the dictum laid down by the B.B.C. at the beginning of its lengthy life span, to not only entertain and inform but also educate those willing to be edified in something other than endless reality programmes or the often insufferable endless round of celebrities plying their trade on panel games or news items. Yes it sticks the mission statement in many ways but the bravery is truly seen when it puts on its screens a captured live recording from a theatre of one of William Shakespeare’s more complex and lengthy plays.

King Lear is not to every one’s taste, it requires perhaps a greater understanding of one of humanities more complicated emotions, that of ageing and the decline of mental faculties; the scars that are left behind on those who face the weakening of strength in the mind, those that abuse such damage and those who care far too much for the person as they slowly lose their grip on reality, yet it is one that deserves to see, and if the Mohammed of theatre cannot go to the mountain then to television the spectacle must be witnessed.

Filmed at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, King Lear is notable for its attention to detail but by also embracing the Director’s vision for the starkness of the set and bravery of a largely black cast set in ancient Britain; brave and wonderful, many may have shied away from such a choice but by doing so it would have lost a lot of integrity and intelligent design.

In Don Warrington, the role of King Lear was inspired, earthy, grounded, the confused withering slow mental decay would have been lost but Mr. Warrington brought absolute pathos and human impairment to the part, a majestic performance in one of the hardest outside of Macbeth and Hamlet to capture with the right amount of tragedy attached it.

With Mitos Yerolemou providing the Fool sounding board, the suffering inferred in the mind of the King took on extra gravity, the external personification of childish glee as one reverts back to a young type in the mind was full of smiles but deadly attraction.

With Thomas Coombes adding a colourful interpretation to the role of Oswald, this production of King Lear caught on camera on stage was one of the best performances perhaps seen it years and one that made the brave choice to show it on television a wise and virtuous one.

Ian D. Hall