Northern Broadsides have been making great strides, stripping back Shakespeare to minimal staging, a no fuss approach to the bard in order to let the script take control and bring back a purposeful naturalistic approach to the dialogue and character interactions. In this production of King Lear directed by Jonathan Miller there is a fresh tone in the air, where Shakespeare without the pomp and circumstance of other productions might just find a new audience.

King Lear is the tale of a father who asks his daughters to compete for their inheritance; two of them are happy to flatterhim enough but the youngest, Cordelia is unable to declare anything more than her deep love for her father. This for Lear is not enough and he banishes her.  There forms a subplot of treachery, deceit and at the centre, an aging King who is thenrebuked by his two favoured daughters and wanders lost and alone descending into madness.

There is a lightness of touch in the retelling of this great play. Lear, a fine performance from Barrie Rutter, is far less King like but more of a troubled father who made a terrible mistake, the lack of care from his two remaining daughters breaks him further and the Kingdom declines with him.

Nicola Sanderson is an imposing, brutal Regan alongside Helen Sheals (Goneril) and Catherine Kinsella as the estranged Cordelia.

The approach to the text brings new humour and a conversational tone that might not suit everyone but definitely brings accessibility to the piece.

The pace felt a little heavy at times and some of the dialogue was difficult to hear, but the sense that this was a strong, successful production never far away. Possibly the dynamics were affected by having a stand in reading from script due to an actor being unable to perform may have undermined the true magnitude of what this could be; that said all is said to be back to normal tonight and I am sure the tour will continue to entice new students into the world of Shakespeare.

*** (3 Stars)

Petra Schofield