The King Lear Monster Show // The Curators’ Theatre

A Review by Anina-Marie

Presented at the beautiful Christ Church in Milton, The Curators’ Theatre delivers a striking rendition of the Shakespeare classic, King Lear. This visually stunning production is a sensual, haunting experience audiences will not easily forget. 

Shakespeare’s text is a story about the ageing and once powerful King Lear who after inviting each of his three daughters to declare their love divides his kingdom amongst them. The two oldest daughters make false, grand declarations of love and devotion but the youngest speaks simply and sincerely. Lear’s rage at her response sets in motion a series of tragic events that throws his former kingdom into disarray and drives him to madness, destroying many lives. 

The Curators’ Theatre describes this dystopian future as one that we can envisage all too readily. 

“The experiment that was western democracy has collapsed; there has been a dissolution of arbitrary lines that marked states and countries; national allegiances have given way. Between the end of everything and the start of something new, Lear lives.” – The Curators’ Theatre

Shakespeare’s Lear famously explores the human condition and in this reimagining, The King Lear Monster Show delivers in spades on the classic themes of loyalty, betrayal, madness and power. The 21st century lens facilitate the investigation of modern themes such as gender and inequality. 

“The King Lear Monster Show echoes how we have responded to the covid pandemic, how war mongers are more than ever alive and kicking, how the wealthy continue to manipulate and how we struggle forward like the sphinx, all thick thighs (with a lion’s head and the howling cry of a banshee) desperate to make this life that little bit better.” – The Curators’ Theatre

The aesthetic design of this production is phenomenal; constructing a haunting apocalyptic wasteland inspired by Fellini through the elements of set, lighting, costume, sound and vision. 

The set designed by Beth Scott consists of a fabulous silver box platform that the company describes as the magic island and a bigger stage further back. The small platform is framed with remnants of the former society – coffee cups, boots, masks all sprayed silver. The stage is decked out simply with an ingeniously designed throne constructed from milk crates and pool noodles, reminiscent of the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones. Beth’s design is refreshingly creative, providing the perfect backdrop for the action.

Framing the sides of this world are incredible portraits created by Portrait Artist & Designer Ronnie Wakefield. Ronnie’s portraits echo the style of Fellini; as each of the characters hang in silent witness to the unfolding of the story. These stunning portraits are also for sale!

The costumes designed by Director Michael Beh are marvellous. Reinforcing the concept of the post-apocalyptic, they are constructed with remnants found and collected from the former society; complete with sequins and sparkles intended to mask the degradation at play in the story. 

Supporting the atmospheric design of the show is the fabulous lighting by David Willis. Inspired by the splendour of Venetian glass, the lighting hues create a beautiful dreamscape. Nathaniel Knight’s vision design projects subtitles for the lines occasionally uttered in French, German, Spanish or Latin onto the backdrop that, whilst not always visible to the audience, provides a glimpse into the psyche of the characters.

One of the standout aesthetic puzzle pieces of the King Lear Monster Show is the sound design by Brian Cavanagh. Featuring sounds that resonate deep in the soul, Brian’s sound design transports the audience into the subconscious meanings of the show and elevates the almost-animalistic urges that underpin many of the character’s actions. The storm sounds are remixed from the human harmonics of Lear, The Fool and Poor Tom. The dance tracks are nightclub mixes incorporating classical elements and the vixen cries of The Fool, the wolf howls of Poor Tom. The result of Brian’s stunning creativity is a fabulous soundscape that transcends reality.

It is clear that Director Michael Beh has a specific vision for this interpretation and boy does it deliver! Michael’s direction draws together all the elements of the aesthetic design to fashion a perfect performance that elicits a strong emotional response from his audience. Michael’s direction is precise, with deliberate blocking that reinforces the telling of this epic tale. As a result of Michael’s excellent direction the actors shine from beginning to end.

King Lear is portrayed by the extremely talented Warwick Comber to absolute perfection. Warwick’s take on Lear is alluring, fascinating, and wonderfully crazy. Warwick’s fantastic stage presence is bewitching as he delivers the complex Shakespearean text with clear intention. 

Eleanora Ginardi’s The Fool is unique. In a refreshing new take on the characterisation of this classic character, Eleanora’s performance is word perfect. There is no doubt whatsoever as to her immense talent and skill as an actor. Similarly, Greg Scurr delivers a wonderful show in the role of Kent/Kanga. Greg’s skill as an actor shines through impeccable comedic timing that injects some much needed humour into this dark tale. 

As the villainous sisters, Amanda McErlean and Sherri Smith as Goneril and Regan respectively are delightfully evil. Delivering two very different performances with strong characterisation both are stunning. Amanda is phenomenal with a distinctive stage presence and a delivery of Shakespeare’s text that is to be highly commended; drawing clear meanings from the sometimes obscure dialogue. Sherri’s performance is pure perfection; a testament to her talent as she brings an almost-unhinged Regan to life. 

In contrast, Lauren Roche delivers a beautifully sweet, yet strong, Cordelia. Lauren’s performance feels authentic from beginning to end. Lauren draws on the heartstrings of the audience and encourages each of us to find that pure, altruistic side of ourselves. 

As Gloucester, Julia Johnson is one of the standouts of this production. Her lines are always delivered with conviction and a clear characterisation that makes for some lovely moments. Likewise, Cameron Hurry creates an Edgar (and later, Poor Tom) with passion and dedication. Cameron’s performance is word perfect and every underlying motivation of his character’s action is clearly thought through. 

Willem Whitfield as Edmund is striking. Willem’s performance is an utter standout in this production. Willem’s Edmund is fabulous, cunning and delightfully conniving. Willem’s villainous portrayal is just perfection from beginning to end; an absolute star. Bravo!

Overall, The Curators’ Theatre’s production of The King Lear Monster Show is a spectacular adaptation of a Shakespeare classic. Everyone who loves theatre or even just visual design should see this show. The King Lear Monster Show is just the modern reimagining the world needs now. The visual design is phenomenal, the direction is perfect, the characterisation is outstanding and the performance is sublime. Don’t miss it!

The King Lear Monster Show will play at Christ Church Milton until 5 June 2002. Tickets are still on sale here

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