Britain’s National Theater staging ‘King Lear’

May 2, 2014 

Great Britain’s National Theatre’s live broadcast of “King Lear” will be shown 3 p.m. Sunday at the Douglass Theatre in Macon.

MARK DOUET — The National Theatre

“King Lear” -- considered by many to be Shakespeare’s most towering work for the stage -- will visit Macon’s Douglass Theatre on Sunday, thanks to the miracle of HD broadcast technology.

This series of live broadcasts from Great Britain’s National Theatre has been drawing Shakespeare fans to the Douglass from around the state, and we can expect much the same turn-out Sunday -- even though some area colleges are in the midst of exams.

This current production of Shakespeare’s most heart-rending tragedy, which just opened Friday on the banks of the Thames, places the action in a modern-day totalitarian state. Directed by Sam Mendes and starring Simon Russell Beale in the title role, the NT production presents Lear as an aging tyrant, complete with bodyguards.

Regardless of the era in which the events are set, the plot is powerful -- based on the legend of a pre-Roman Celtic king -- yet painful to witness: The aging king decides that the time has come to retire and divide his kingdom among his daughters, with the largest share going to the one who loves him the most. While Goneril and Regan are fulsome in their declarations, the young Ophelia quietly says that she has no words equal to the task.

Enraged, the vain king strips her of her inheritance and vows that he will divide his remaining days between the two older daughters, who he is certain will be pleased to support him. Tragic consequences ensue, and Lear ultimately descends into madness.

Is “Lear” a play about filial ingratitude, or is it about an egotistical old man receiving his just desserts? Or the corrupting influences of power? By the bloody end, Lear is left with little more than his Fool, who throughout wryly comments on the action.

George Bernard Shaw declared that “No man will ever write a better tragedy than ‘Lear,’” and there are few who will dispute him.

“King Lear”

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Douglass Theatre

Cost: $20 per ticket

Information: 478-742-2000, www.douglasstheatre.org

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