Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - King lear
Shakespeare knew his stage like the back of his hand. He worked with his company as an actor and writer.
He often wrote the characters to utilise his men.
Richard Burbage was the key tradgeirian of the day. He played Lear. It was said upon his death that all the
characters “that lived in him have now forever died” The part of Lear was written with the knowledge that
Lear WOULD be played by Burbage.
As with Burbage, Robert Armin had the part of the fool written with him in mind. He was a great verbal wit
and was able to pull of line delivery very well. As you can see, Shakespeare really paid attention to those he
He had a company of 26 actors, and together they had about a week to learn each new play, stage it and
perform it. Compared to the adaptation of King Lear at the national which has been rehearsed for nearly 7
weeks, its pretty amazing how little time they needed.
A lot of the actors were prize fighters, so the staging of physical scenes was mainly down to these guys. As
you can imagine, the fight scenes would have been really high stake scenes, with a lot of energy and very
There was no drama school, actors learned only from one another, it was very much a hands on trade.
There was no director, the actors staged the play collaboratively with the author (who was also an actor) to
create the show.
King Lear is the most ensemble based play of all of Shakespeare's.
The globe had a trap doors, a second tier on stage, and pillars.
It was able to hold 3,000 people.
The actors had to contend with the noise of 3,000 people munching hazelnuts, oranges, and other
snacks as well as talking and shuffling.
The staging was relatively simplistic, as the play had to be transferable. When the plague was in town,
as it so often was, the company packed up and toured, and played privately for people. They also had to
be ready to move quickly on the kings command. Shakespeare, having been born in Stratford upon
Avon, grew up without public play houses, instead having traveling men who performed in the back of
carts. What ever these men couldn’t put into the carts, didn’t get brought, and Shakespeare seems to
have been influenced by this. He was very economical in his staging and use of props/effects.
When we think about Lear, the only props that are truly needed are: A mirror, A feather, Glasses, A
Letter, A map and hot irons. These are easy, and economical to transport!
There was a different play very often at the Globe so they didn’t use backdrops or any fixed/grand
To gain peoples awareness before the start of the show, there would have been trumpets sounded or a
drumroll, and then it would start immediately.
To create the effect of the storm in Lear, a cannon ball was placed in a drum and swirled around to
create thunder. Also it could be placed in the roof of the globe to make it seem more realistic. Cannon
fire was used as well as gunpowder for explosions and highlighting key moments.
More money was spent on the costume than any other aspect of the plays.
The Globe was situated in an area that was really seedy.
The audience during the day mainly consisted of people who had skived off work.
The area was dense with brothels, pimps, drunks and you were clearly able to see the traitors heads on
spikes that lined the river.
The Globe was right next door to a bear vs dog fighting arena. Shakespeare being a business man knew
he had to contend with this. He seems to have offered an alternative to the violence available next door
by wrapping violence (such as glousters eyes) in stunning verse, human nature.
Many of the audience members were not just talking about seeing the play but also about ‘hearing the
play’. This shows that Londoners at the time came not to see how it was performed but listen to the
story. This was of great importance to them.
IMAGINARY FORCES, EDMUNDS
SOLILOQUY AND KING JOHN
Edmund has the first soliloquy, he opens up to us first which makes the audience feel a particular
tenderness towards him. He actively questions the audience about his ‘baseness’ and gets us on his
He invites us to watch as his plan unfolds, he calls the audience to watch, he tries to make them enjoy it
or at least actively participate with it. ‘He seduces the audience’ – Dr Nick Walton
As Shakespeare didn’t have room for props and often wrote bigger than his stage could create
(thunderstorms, heath scenes, “is this a dagger I see before me?”) he calls upon the audience, using his
words to see in their minds eye what he wants them to see. He harnesses the imagination of the
audience to picture that which his time period didn’t allow. Within Lear it is mentioned how beautiful
Cordelia is, but Cordelia was in fact probably a spotty small teenage lad, but due to his reinforcement in
writing, the audience believed it.
Before Lear, one of Shakespeare's earlier plays ‘King John’ had a young boy who was sentenced to death
and blindness by King John. In a scene, the boy is tied to a chair and is pleading with the executioner to
find his humanity and let him go. Eventually the executioner relents and cannot go through with pulling
the boys eyes out. He helps the boy escape. As his audience most probably would be aware of the play
King John, they would be anticipating the same ending as this scene. This is a fine example of
Shakespeare knowing how to keep his audience entranced and contending with the violence of the
bear/dog fighting house next door.
KING LEAR ORIGINAL PERFORMANCE
“For Shakespeare a play began life in the theatre. Often enough, the stage itself inspired the
composition of the text”
Gary Taylor, Cambridge guide to Shakespeare (ed. Wells and Stanton. Pg1)
“Each generation has to keep rediscovering ways of doing shakespeares plays They don’t have
absolute meanings. There is no fixed, frozen way of doing them. Nobody can mine a
Shakespeare play and discover a ‘solution’, and to pretend that style, fashion and taste are
fixed is to ignore history”
Richard Eyre, Changing Stages, p55
“Plays, music and dancing were by no means the only shows in town. There were jousts,
tournaments, royal entries, religious processions, pageants in honour of newly installed civic
officials or ambassadors arriving from abroad; wedding masques, court acts, fortune -tellers,
exhibitions of swordsmanship, mountebanks, folk healers, story tellers, magic shows;
bearbaiting, bull baiting, public shaming, mutilation, and execution.”
Norton Shakespeare ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al, p34
“Go to plays, thundered on irate minister, John Northbrooke, ‘if you will learn how to be false
and deceive your husbands, or husbands their wives, how to play harlots to obtain ones love,
how to ravish, how to beguile, how to betray, to flatter, lie, swear, forswear, how to allure
whoredom, how to murder, how to poison, how to disobey and rebel against princes, to
consume treasures prodigally, to move to lusts, to ransack and spoil cities and towns, to be
idle, to blaspheme, to sing filthy songs of love, to speak filthily, to be proud….”
Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World, p186
“Members of the gentry, foreign ambassadors, butchers, tailors and leather workers,
students being trained as lawyers at the Inns of Court, apprentices, shopkeepers, and thieves
all seem to have congregated at the playhouse on a more or less regular basis. There is also
clear evidence that they were joined by women, weather ladies, citizens wives or
M J Kidnie, ‘Shakespeare's audience’ in Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide, ed. Stanely wells and Lena Cowen
QUESTIONS TO THE STAFF
DIRECTOR, AND THE UNDERSTUDY
CAST OF KING LEAR
A question about the stage design
The cross was unintended to be a crucifix, ‘I don’t think it was consciously
chosen”- Tim Hoare (Staff director)
The colour was very carefully chosen, its very versatile, the colour is able
to change throughout the play. This is something we wanted to play on a
lot. Colour is very important
-I find it reminds me of bruises, and metallic, it’s easily changed from day
to night, it highlights the darkness of the play. Not to mention it receives
projection perfectly. And that is something you have to think about a lot
when using video projection.
-the patterning reminds me of the cosmos. As the play opens with the
eclipse, I think its fitting. - Cassie Bradley (P. nurse US. Cordelia/Doctor)
-I just think it points out how pointless we all are. How pointless any
individual life is in the grand scheme. Yet were all so concerned with
ourselves. – Daniel Miller (P. Curan US. France/Burgundy/Fool)
Why did you chose to show Goneril and Reagan dying on stage?
-1st law of theatre, when you can, show don‟t tell. –Daniel Miller
-to have the bodies visually pile up on stage, it makes it hit harder which is
should do, as a tragedy. – Tim Hoare
-”Having Lear on stage surrounded by his 3 dead daughters, it mirrors the first
scene” – Hannah Stokely (P. Doctor US. Goneril/Regan)
When playing Goneril/Regan, does it feel like you‟re playing a villian?
-”I have sympathy for Goneril, she's sad, and lonely.”
“She's desperately reaching out for her father but they‟re missing, they cant
seem to communicate. There is a great boundary between them.”
“Regan is much more a player.” She‟s somewhat psychotic and sexual. She uses
her sex to manipulate people well. “There seems to be a firework of a
relationship between Regan and Cornwall and Goneril, they seem to egg each
other on.” They have no one else you see. But its moreso for Goneril.
“they had a childhood of very little parenting”
. –Hannah Stokely (US. Goneril/Regan)
As an actor, what is it like adapting your own speech to Shakespeare's language?
For me, speaking for myself I cant speak for anyone else here, “its all about
articulation. Making sure you hit every word.” – Daniel Miller
Before hand “you need to fully understand what each line and word means before
you go out on stage”. “I tend to write it out in plain English, then think of that
while I am saying it.” [the lines] – Simon Manyonda ( P. Oswald US. Edgar)
“A lot of the time none of us knew what some words or sentences meant. Even
Sam and Simon.” – Hannah Stokely
“We did a lot of work on Verse speaking rules”. Simon hit the balance between
getting us to understand the verse, but “he listens to everyone's accents and allows
the to have a bit of dialect.” Cornwall is Scottish, and I bring a bit of my accent to
it. “He allows you to keep the good parts of your voice” – Daniel Miller
What's it like setting the text now where religion is less prevalence, does Lear
loose something? Especially with his abdication.
Lear is set in pre-christian times. But in terms of the divine right of kings, its
more prevalent than ever. We have absolute powers, and tyrants who have
„divine‟ right. And when they fall its is of greater consequence. These rulers
have a wider audience, are bigger plays in the global picture, so when they fall
it is even more relevant and mirrors Lear.
People/countries start riling for a piece of that land.
The abdication looses one small significance, but gains a much wider one.
We were influenced by the dissolution of the soviet empire, the end of the
British empire and the death of Stalin. –Tim Hoare
What do you feel about the sexuality of the sisters?
“Well, I heard you say they were slutty…but I think edgar is the sluttier of the
three” – Daniel Miller
“I think they use sex as a weapon.
Goneril sets out on her own. Shes desperate, and tries to hold on to any power
she can get, and edmund is able to give her power” She uses sexual power to
survive, and power is survival to Goneril. –Hannah Stokley
Women needed men. –Cassie Bradley
Its interesting to note the absence of women in this play. – Tim Hoare
Goneril is so alone. [Her sister has her husband, and there is noone else.] –
Women only appear once the French arrive, until then, the women are alone,
in the sterile many environment. – Daniel Miller
“There were no indications of lear being a good father or anything to the girls.”
They grab power where they can.- Hannah Stokely
Your choice of costume for edgar and edmund….?
Sam and Tom [Brooke, Edgar] decided on it almost from the start. They
wanted to highlight the difference between Edgar and Edmund. Edgar is
dissengaged, and aloof from the politics. Yet amusingly he is the legitimate.
And Edmund is there…engaged. Its very telling. –Tim Hoare
When did you set the piece?
Well its contempary, modern, definitely 20 th century post war, but when
precisely, we don’t know. We aren't very specific. We wanted it to be
immediate, accessible and contempary.
Refugees, soviet style statues of tyranny, politics was very important.
Giving it a specific time gives it to much grounding, and ties it down.
Crtics say Lear is unstageable, what do you think of that?
“Well if they say its unstagable because of the themes, it‟s the best
compliment a play can get.” it means you‟ve hit every box. – Daniel Miller
It‟s a “Dense text, with major plot points that happen fast. Dialogue moves
fast and its hard to make clear what is happening. You miss someones entrace
who says one line, and its vital to the next scene, youre looking round when
that scene comes going “what?? Whats going on?” its very hard to get around
that” –Ross Waiton (P. Captain US. Cornwall/Kent/Cornwalls Servant)
“Just when you think everything is settling down with some characters,
someone else comes around with a letter and mixes it all up again. It‟s a
WHAT THEY USE FOR WAR
-Moveable slides that come down from
Gloucester Stephen Boxer
Simon Russell Beale
Anna Maxwell Martin
MAIN TECH TEAM
Projections di. Jon Driscoll
Company voice work
Staff Director Tim Hoare