Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Ba3 Portfolio Activity #3: King Lear

My third and final portfolio activity brought me (or rather us) to Leuven. Mr Delabastita had asked us if we were interested in watching a Shakespeare play. I was glad about this opportunity, because finding an activity in English in Belgium is not that easy. The play was to be performed in the Reynaerttheater Malpertuus in Leuven on the 5th of December. We fixed the rendezvous-point in front of the train station, where Mr Delabastita was waiting for us. We then made our way to the theatre. Mr Delabastita turned out to be an excellent tour guide and showed us several interesting things, including the library where he found his passion for reading (a very historical place!)

As you may know, King Lear is the story about the latter and his three daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. The king is growing old and decides to retire from power. He wants to divide his properties among his three daughters. The largest part should go to the daughter who loves him best. In this contest of flattery, Goneril and Regan describe their love for him in poetic language, trying to surpass each other. Cordelia on the other hand, is the only one to speak the truth when she says that she loves him the way a daughter should love her father, no more and no less. King Lear is infuriated by the bluntness of her words. Believing in the flattery of his two other daughters he banishes Cordelia and disinherits her. He divides his kingdom between Regan and Goneril and asks for a hundred knights and to live alternately with them. But when he goes to Goneril she says that he should let one half of the knights go, unwilling to pay for them. Infuriated he goes to see Regan, but she says that he doesn't need any knights and casts him away. Betrayed by his own daughters he runs out in the middle of a storm, ranting, only accompanied by a few loyal companions and the fool who mocks his foolishness.

Meanwhile, Edmund, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester plots against his legitimate brother Edgar, making their father believe that Edgar wants to kill him. Edgar is forced to run away and falls into madness. The Earl of Gloucester learns about the fate of the king and writes a letter to Cordelia's husband, the king of France. Edmund sees this and betrays him to Goneril and Regan, Gloucester is then caught and brutally blinded by Regan's husband, the Duke of Cornwall. In the meantime, Cordelia returns with the French army and is defeated by the English troops led by Edmund. Cordelia is captured and by the time the allies of the king realise that she is about to be executed, it is already too late. Goneril and Regan, both attracted to Edmund, are jealous of each other. Goneril first poisons Regan and then kills herself. Edmund is killed by his half-brother Edgar and King Lear, overwhelmed by the fate of the only daughter who really loved him, dies of sorrow.

The play was performed by the Cambridge University Theatre Group, which entirely consists of students. They perform Shakespeare plays in different cities of Europe for two and a half weeks in December, each year. Despite their young age, they played their roles in a very believable way. Especially the performance of Theo Hughes-Morgan, who played King Lear, really stood out. Although the play is very dark, violent (and the violence is shown very explicitly) and very long (3 hours) it was interesting to watch, which was also due to the great performance of the actors. Shakespearean English is quite hard to understand, so you don't always get what they are talking about, but seeing the performance helped me a lot in the understanding of the story. Watching a play, performed by such talented students is not something you can do every day, so it is definitively worth the watch.

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