Enjoyed The King Lear Project Part 1 but–

Yes, I enjoyed being there. I enjoyed seeing good actors I love on stage, especially K Rajagopal back on stage after (can it be?) at least 10 years off.

But I’m not sure what’s supposed to be happening there.
Okay, I’ll describe what I saw first:

Kaylene Tan plays Kaylene Tan the director, auditioning actors Ramesh, Raja & Gerald (played by Ramesh, Raja & Gerald) for the part of Lear. She’s assisted by Elizabeth, played by Elizabeth Tan & producer Paul (played by Paul Rae) delivers sage comments from the audience. The already cast cast of Kheng, Janice, Crispian, Brendan & Shu An (yes, played by themselves) are speaking props for the 3 auditioners.

So far so good.

At first I thought it was going to be like An Oak Tree where the first time the actor encounters the script is on stage, but no. This time the actors auditioning were obviously working off rehearsed material.

So this was just a gimmick? Okay, I like gimmicks, I’ll go along with it. And yes, I enjoyed my evening there. But I still don’t understand what the heck they were trying to do.

Each time Kaylene would go through the same spiel–3 choices as to how to play Lear 1) as God 2) as Madman 3) as Every Man. As Gerald later reveals, they knew the choices & took one each. And yes, all the interpretations were different & entertaining.
But–the Producer then cut in from his seat in the audience telling the Director what didn’t work with each interpretation.

So what was happening there? If the actors were ‘supposed’ to be choosing an interpretation are we learning about their interpretations or about Lear? Because it was unfair to have someone play the opening scene as a madman & say only later that Lear’s madness only comes out later.

And was this supposed to encompass all possible readings of Lear? Please–don’t even get me started here.
There was a point in the ‘everyman Lear’ where Producer Paul suddenly calls out ‘freeze’ & all the actors onstage froze en tableau. Then he called ‘unfreeze’ & they continued as before. What the heck was that supposed to show/do/signify? It felt like the director thought ‘oh, I can put a cute effect in here, let’s just put it in to impress the audience’ & did it… because it didn’t tie in to anything else I could see.

There was so much more I felt could have been done with the premise–the real Lear analogy could have been Kaylene the director… having to choose between 3 options/daughters… while supposedly auditioning actors for Lear she could have been playing Regen/Goneril/Cordelia against each other… or getting Janice/Kheng/ShuAn to show/declare how much each of them loved & was dedicated to the production & so deserved the plum Cordelia role… & then Paul/producer in the audience could have spoken & revealed he was the true ‘Lear’, making the final decision based on whether Director/Actors/Stage Designer pleased/flattered him more rather than what was best for the production.

But as it was, it felt like a school project (albeit with great actors & production values) & the only message that came through for me was a condescending ‘we’re so clever, we’re so clever, we’re so clever to point out it’s hard to pin down Lear’.

Like why, at the end, do they scroll back to the beginning & start the auditioning process all over again? Replaying dialogue/actions just to show they can? And then freezing till the audience tentatively starts to clap? (“Please clap or they’ll start again” I heard one guy near me say “I have to go to the loo”). If they wanted to show there are infinite interpretations of Lear then why didn’t Kaylene say so (play Lear as Blind Parent/Alpha Male/PAP) instead of recycling back to the beginning?
It felt like they were trying to indicate there’s no way to cast Lear, no way to get out of the loop, but that’s not the case, surely?

And what was the ultimate downer for me was what felt like (sorry Paul!) the White Man from his superior seat in the audience delivering the withering verdict that we in this society aren’t mature enough to understand the everyman facets of Lear.

So–I enjoyed the show. The little details & quirks were great. I’m looking forward to tonight (the blinding scene) & tomorrow (‘The Lear Universe’).

Maybe you have to see all 3 parts to see what they’re getting at. Well I’m willing/waiting/wanting to be persuaded!

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5 Responses

  1. Is Jesus not God, made flesh – and hence Everyman?

  2. Wouldn’t the ‘God eating with everyman’ significance of the last supper have fit better in the ‘Lear as God’ section?

    No, I didn’t enjoy the next two nights, to put it mildly.

    But I’ve learned my lesson–don’t buy Arts Fest tickets in advance!

  3. The last supper is the breaking of bread between jesus and his disciples. his ‘everymen’ it happens during the everyman section of lear because of this. i hope you enjoyed the next two nights,

  4. Thank you Lear, okay–I can see the Last Supper pose now. But like you I don’t get the ‘why’.

    Was the whole long table staging set up just for that moment?

    Or was it just a ‘hey doesn’t it remind you of-‘ moment that they decided to use to stretch out the performance because why not? We have a captive audience.

    (Sorry–sat through Part 3…)

  5. Just one point of clarification- I think that the “freeze” part in the third actor’s audition was meant to bring to mind the famous painting of The Last Supper, given the posturing of the various (thirteen) people.

    As for the significance of this, I have no idea.

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