Based on the tragedy written by William Shakespeare in 1606 and firstly performed in 1608, the play “King Lear” recounts the life of the British King Lear who chooses to retire and divide up Britain between his three daughters. To become rich and powerful, the three daughters have to flatter their father. On the one hand, the two eldest, Goneril and Regan, achieve their ends and are rewarded generously with land and marriages to the Duke of Albany and the Duke of Cornwall, respectively. On the other hand, Lear’s most beloved daughter, Cordelia, refuses to buy into the “glib and oily art” of courtly flattery because she truly loves her father. Lear’s pride is hurt and he furiously banishes Cordelia from the land. One of Cordelia’s suitors, the Duke of Burgundy, explains thus that he doesn’t want to marry her because she has no wealth. However, the King of France takes her as his wife so she accompanies him to France without her father’s blessing. Elsewhere in the royal court, somebody is conspiring against the Duke of Gloucester. Actually, he has two sons called Edgar and Edmund. The latter is illegitimate, that’s the reason why he tricks Gloucester into believing that his other son, Edgar, is planning to kill Gloucester. Consequently, the latter disinherits Edgar and tries to protect Lear against his two malicious daughters. Accused of treason by Regan and her husband, Cornwall, the duke of Gloucester is condemned to wander the countryside. At the end of the story, Cordelia is hanged on Edmund’s order. Her death is too much for the insane King Lear who dies of unhappiness. Before I went to the Reynaerttheatre Malpertuus in Leuven, I wondered how men can bear another King Lear. The Cambridge University European Theatre Group did it perfectly. First of all, the actors analysed the characters’ personality in order to play them with psychological realism and emotional authenticity. The result of their work is incredibly good! Furthermore, they spoke a perfect British English which illustrates their total respect for the Shakesperian style. What struck me the most about the play on stage was the fact that the scenery could be changed. This ingenious invention enables the student-run theatrical company to put on their show anywhere. Moreover, costumes were designed in a modern style which enables the spectator to build bridges between the original play and the experimental set. Another interesting anecdote about the play is the fact that each actor plays different roles. To avoid any confusion, they used masks in order to make a distinction between the main characters and the supporting roles.
To sum up, I enjoyed every second of the play. However, I have to admit that I didn’t understand all the dialogues because the theatrical performers tended to speak naturally fast. Being a spectator of such a play was a great pleasure and I advise you to go and see this version of the famous Shakespearian play.