Lear: Review

John Scott’s revival of the 400-year old play at the Samuel Beckett Theatre is both unusual and enjoyable, explains Síofra Ní Shluaghadháin.[br]THIS production of Lear, brought to us by John Scott's Irish Modern Dance Theatre, is not your bog standard adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear, which some might remember without much fondness from the Leaving Cert. This is certainly no bad thing.Starring the inimitable Valda Setterfield, this production deconstructs the tragedy of one of Shakespeare's greatest plays. Using the base script as a mere prop, Setterfield, along with three superb dancers from the company, exposes the bare bones of the drama, by choosing to focus on the loneliness and isolation of Lear's madness, as the world in her beloved kingdom disintegrates.It is important to note the stylistic choice in the title. Although this production has been referred to as "a streamlined version of Shakespeare's play", it could be argued that Lear has the capacity and the originality to stand on its own merit. With the focus shifted from the verbal to the physical aspects of the play, this piece allows the four performers to examine aspects of the great tragedy, without the need to act it out.
"It could be argued that Lear has the capacity and the originality to stand on its own merit."
Setterfield, in her role as the titular Lear, allows her physical presence to counterpoint beautifully with the fragile mental state of the character she portrays. Similarly, the other dancers, in their roles as Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, use gender as a means of counterpoint, using the male physique as a manner of critiquing their characters' parts in the action.All in all, this production is one of a kind, a unique interaction between one of the stalwarts of the world of dance and physical theatre by one of the freshest and most innovative dance companies in Ireland today. It is fitting, in many ways, that this expression is done in homage to the Bard, the stark modernity of the form bringing to life what universally lies at the heart of human tragedy.