Talbot Theatre, Whitchurch

By Dave Booth

MADNESS, betrayal, murder, love, lust and power; what more could you want in a play?

King Lear has a problem with his three daughters (Goneril, Regan and Cordelia): which one should inherit his land; which does he trust?

Paul Morel of Oddbodies Theatre Group finds a neat way of dealing with Lear’s troublesome brood – he plays them all himself, along with the king, and the king’s fool; in fact, all 15 major characters, as well as assorted servants and messengers.

And what a tale it is! A king weighed down by the burdens of state, a father desperate to know he is respected. Alas, his pride blinds him to the truth and Cordelia’s honesty is mistaken for disloyalty.

In an intriguing sub-plot, the king’s loyal friend the Earl of Gloucester has his own family issues to contend with as scheming son Edmund (the bastard) plots betrayal while loyal son Edgar is exiled and forced to wear a succession of disguises, including ‘Mad Tom’.

It is only as Lear descends into his own exile and madness that he begins to see the truth. Cordelia has hooked up with the King of France and arrives in Dover with a French army, perhaps to save the day.

Yet this is, after all, a tragedy, leaving redemption and reconciliation tantalisingly out of reach.

But a fun night for the audience, thanks to Morel’s superb one-man performance that summarises Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, using just a knife, a guitar, a drum and a chair for props, adding a light-hearted tone with some amusing banter and several swigs from a bottle of wine!