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Customer Review

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good performance - dated production, 23 Mar. 2010
This review is from: King Lear - BBC Shakespeare Collection [1982] [DVD] (DVD)
This is a good King Lear. It has a strong cast - early 1980s vintage - and as far as I'm aware presents the text complete. I admit I haven't checked it line for line against a text but I know the play pretty well and I don't notice anything missing. The DVD also has subtitles - useful if you want to pay close attention to the text.

Michael Horden is an experienced actor, steeped in Shakespeare and his performance is pretty much what you would expect - compelling and engaging and mercifully free from hamminess in the mad scenes. John Shrapnel is a blunt, no-nonsense Kent and Anton Lesser negotiates the difficult part of Edgar with ease - convincing and powerful as "Poor Tom" without overdoing it. Penelope Wilton is a superb Regan, sweetly smiling and as toxic as strychnine. And the angry, rasping Fool of Frank Middlemass is a refreshing change from the usual cringing milksop.

The Cordelia and Edmund are less to my taste. Cordelia is no push-over and Brenda Blethyn's performance certainly shows some strength of character. But Cordelia should also have some attractive and endearing qualities and, for me, this Cordelia lacks charm. Michael Kitchen's Edmund is a suave, urbane, elegant figure. I would agree that there is no need for him to be played as a fire-and-brimstone breathing maniac. But he is one of Shakespeare's most evil characters. I think he requires a heavier, more saturnine characterization.

But, for me, the main drawback is the camera work. The play is filmed as if it were a 1970s soap opera. Lots of facial close-ups with heads too near to each other. In an age of wide screen television and home cinema this approach now looks hopelessly dated. King Lear is a huge play in every respect. It needs space. It doesn't get much here.

Much to enjoy, then. I can't imagine that anyone who loves this play would fail to derive some satisfaction and enjoyment from this version. But for the "full effect" you may have to look elsewhere.
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