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As the work for the 2013 production progressed, we put rehearsal shots and updates from the director, to better give people an idea of what is involved in putting a production such as this together. 

You can already read the director's production blog, via the link on the CONTACT page, and we hope that this page will enhance your enjoyment of not only the site but of Lear and Shakespeare in general.

At the bottom of the page is a storyboard with pictures from the production.

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KING LEAR PRODUCTION PICTURES ARE FURTHER DOWN THE PAGE. ENJOY.

Why would anyone want to write a play like Lear, let alone perform it? The answers to those questions are as many and varied as the reasons people have for collecting Star Wars toys or Victorian wall advertisements: because they are fascinated by them and find something in them that touches them. They can, perhaps, offer no logical reason - logical to someone else, anyway! - yet the compulsion remains. 


What was going on in Shakespeare's head when he had the idea of adapting a couple of older tales is a matter of purest conjecture, I believe, but ultimately let's not forget the business in which he was involved: entertainment. Whether that entertainment takes the form of a comedy or a romance or tragedy, it's the entertainment aspect that would have been uppermost in his mind. He may well have had something he 'wanted to say', some point he wanted to get across, but when all is said and done, if the story in which the point is wrapped doesn't entertain in some way - get those bums on seats - then the message will, at worst, be lost and and best not be seen and appreciated.


Here, I hope, you will discover why we decided to produce King Lear for the 2013 Dartmouth Shakespeare Week season and what it was that inspired the director to push for this particular play, as well as what it takes for us as a company to put something of this magnitude before a paying audience. 

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FIRST CHOOSE YOUR PLAY

We always choose the play for any particular season the year before; makes planning easier and, apart from any other considerations, we have to get an advert ready for the programme to let people know what it is we're doing for Dartmouth Shakespeare Week the following year. Seems logical. 


In 2012 we had several other issues that were pressing, some of which, whilst very important to us, have no bearing upon what we're doing here. Probably the most significant change for the company was the retirement of our long-standing Artistic Director, Malcolm MacIntosh, whose influence and input had been a huge part what we were doing. The then Company Manager, Jane Windsor-Smith, stepped up to the plate and was voted into office, with Gil Garland taking on the now vacant role of Company Manager. Max Brandt, committe member, pressed for Lear as 2013's production and bingo! Lear was on...but only if he directed! That was when, as far as he was concerned, the fun really started.

Here 's a sneak preview of some of the director's notes that will appear in the programme for King Lear, it might help give some sort of perspective on the choice of play and the motivation behind its selection:


'Back at the start of 2005 I met someone who, in the ensuing six months or so, re-awoke in me a fascination with Shakespeare and, by dint of what I was asked to do, re-kindled something that I hadn’t realised had actually gone out: a love of performance and the desire to perform.

So, eight years later and seven plays on, here I am, directing a play by the man who is, in my opinion, the greatest writer we have seen or are ever likely to see. I have been privileged to play some of the greatest roles he created - Prospero, Macduff, Touchstone, Sir Toby Belch, Don Pedro and Shylock – and also to act alongside, and be directed by, some of the finest and most inspirational actors and directors working in non-professional theatre in the South West…I would hazard Great Britain…today. Which is one of the reasons why I wanted to put King Lear on the stage at Dartmouth Castle - the others are, I confess, purely selfish.'



'‘King Lear’ has been called many things, over the years: ‘un-actable’, according to William Hazlitt, the Romantic critic, who thought the best way to enjoy Lear was to read it rather than see it performed, since ‘…the greatness of Lear is…intellectual…’ and if we read what is written rather than see it on the stage, ‘…we see not Lear, but we are Lear.’


The play has been edited by no less a luminary than Samuel Johnson; it has been ‘improved’ by Nahum Tate (from 1681 to about 1838, you could read Shakespeare’s Lear but you could only see Tate’s ‘improved’ script acted on the stage), who twisted everything beyond recognition, even to the point of an imagined love affair between Cordelia and Edgar that allows Cordelia to live, Lear to rescue his own kingdom and everyone to live happily ever after. The King of France and the Fool are completely expunged as superfluous!'


Do we hear sharp intakes of breath? Re-wrote?! How dare he! Sorry to disappoint, but even such theatrical luminaries as Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn have re-written Shakespeare...only they, and we, call it editing. And there are so many reasons for editing a script, not least of which, from our point of view, is a time constraint; we have to restrict ourselves to approximately two hours performance time plus an interval. This is due mainly to our location - the castle is about a mile outside Dartmouth at the end of a country lane - and the audiences come from all over the South West (and beyond), many having to use one of the two ferries to cross the river to get us...and the boats stop running at a given time. If we overrun, our audience don't get home! But that's us. 

We as a company have always prided ourselves on making the works of Shakespeare 'accessible' - horrible word, but it works in this instance - so the director takes the script, in this case, the Oxford School Shakespeare (wonderful things!) and reads, makes notes, crosses out, re-instates and eventually comes up with a workable version that should, with luck and a following wind, run out to about two hours...give or take ten minutes. It's an unenviable task but it not only gives him the chance to become very familiar with the text, but also to replace or restructure certain words and phrases that, to the modern ear, mean nothing and, potentially, mar the audience's enjoyment and understanding of the play.

If done sensitively, the editing will not destroy the flow of the writing, the essential poetry, the story or the ability of the actors to interpret what is written. And in this instance, the Fool and King of France remain as players in the game! That being said, several of the smaller parts have been 'amalgamated' to form a 'new' character and some will be played one actor, but this is more about getting men to participate than anything else!

Talented actresses we have, so many in fact (aren't we lucky?) that a couple of the smaller parts have been re-created, as it were, and we now have a Katherine walking the stage. It's ironic, really, when you think that women weren't even allowed to act when the play was written!

But this is only the start of the process in getting Lear on to the stage and fully -formed.

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NOW GET YOUR CAST

Every year the call goes out and every year it is answered. We have our stalwarts - every company has them - who come along every year to play their part...and it matters not a jot to them whether that part is on stage, behind the scenes or front of house, they come and give of their time. We are also incredibly lucky to have, over the years, gained a reputation for excellence that seems to act as a magnet for wonderfully talented people to come and take part in our productions. And this year was no different.

Alf Resco's Dartmouth

Because of the work done by previous directors and artistic directors, we have a very healthy mailing list of potential actors on whom to call. So we did; inviting them to come to The Flavel - that's it on the right - one Sunday afternoon and partake in some workshop games and to read for the parts that they would most like to play. 

They read other parts too; parts that they might not, normally, have considered. The idea is to get them out of that little area in which they are apt to feel most comfortable. That exercise yielded some startling and interesting results...and, much like the read-through, it aided the decisions that were eventually taken but made them not a jot easier to actually take.

It never ceases to amaze us just how many lights there are hidden under so many different bushels. And thanks to a concentrated effort on the various web-sites and social media networks, we have a large number of new people coming to join us this year, and be part of the DSW experience. It's going to be so much fun.

Our lovely friends at Alf Resco's, who are open from 7am until 2pm (plug over!), have supported us and Dartmouth Shakespeare Week pretty much from the start. This year though, they went above and beyond the call of duty, and offered their services to us for our read-through. So, one chilly evening in February, we gathered in Alf's and the script, fired fresh from the mint (but not hanging like an icicle on a Dutchman's beard!), was presented to everyone who had come along to read and get familiar with King Lear. We took a timing too, just to see if it roughly met the criteria we needed. It did.

The potential cast were also introduced to some of the stirring and dramatic music that the director had already chosen for the production; it added a degree of atmosphere that helped everybody get in the mood for the read-through.

The director also had his pen out and made surreptitious notes about certain of those present - it was insight that would help his decision making process when it came to the eventual casting, after auditions. It wouldn't make the choices any easier, but it shone on a light in some uncertain places!

The Flavel

It's all about pictures. Moving pictures - theatre is the original moving picture show. The more the director reads the script, the better idea s/he has of what it needs to actually look like, up there in the harsh, or not so harsh, light of par-cams and spots. That's why it takes more than one person to bring it all to life. The director has ideas, a vision if you will, of the finished product, but it takes more than ideas to do the job. But s/he still has to convey this vision to the people who, hopefully, will make the idea a reality. 

In between editing and read-through and auditions, the director has scribbled notes about lighting, set-dressing, props, colour palette and costumes...then thrown them out there for all those other talented types to create.

Chair for Lear
Stocks for Lear

These might give you an notion as to what poor old Mike Roope, who's volunteered to construct some important props for us, has to work with: a bloke who finds it hard to figure out which end of a screwdriver to use, trying to design stocks and a sturdy chair. Mike seemed completely unphased by the garbled instructions and merely said, 'Yeah, I can do that.' Brilliant. 

A perfect example of the sort of team-work we have. It doesn't stop with the furniture, the same applies across the board. I'm sure there are muttered expletives, but people get stuck in and we have always been fortunate enough to have stunning sets, immaculate costumes and superb lighting and sound. And, of course, the actors, who turn up and get on with the job...once they know which parts they're playing, obviously.

LADIES & GENTLEMEN...YOUR CAST FOR KING LEAR!

(SO FAR)

Jon Miles
Sally
Jilly

        Jon Miles - King Lear                                      Sally Feetenby - Cordelia                                               Jill Brock - Regan

Gil.
Ernie
Ben

          Gil Garland - Kent                                      Ernie Wingeatt - Gloucester                                        Ben Hamilton - Edmund

Sam
Vern.
Shahar

        Sam Duberley - Edgar                                    Vernon Davis - Cornwall                                           Shahar Lashkor - Knight

Lucy
Malcolm

We are still waiting to catch certain people unawares, so unfortunately we don't have pictures for:

Shaunagh Radcliffe - Goneril

Rob Wilcock - Albany

Fred Radcliffe - Burgundy/Servant 2


They will be arriving in the near future...as will a couple of other cast members. But who they maybe is, as yet, a mystery. Even to the director! The missing characters are as follows:

Oswald

France/Servant 1

And we're very hopeful that they will be filled by, or on, April 23rd.

      Lucy Nichols - Katherine                              Doctor/Serv 3 - Malcolm MacIntosh

The Castle

And this, as we're sure you are all fully aware by now, is the space where all the hard work and fun and games will begin on April 23rd at around 7pm, when we start blocking the play and welcome the entire cast, old and (potentially) new, to get used to the phenomenal size of the space. And as the process progresses from the above space to indoor rehearsals...

...at Dartmouth's historic Guildhall, we shall attempt to update this page with regular pictures of what's going on and, hopefully, some thoughts from cast members as to how they are finding the experience of working on one of Shakespeare's most tragic creations.

We hope to have the whole kit-and-kaboodle recorded for display as well, so they will actually be moving pictures - so please keep dropping by.

If you feel so inclined, we'd love to hear what you think, so click on the link in the Guildhall picture and send us an email.

                                      

                                         

FIRST BLOCKING AND RHEARSALS AT THE CASTLE

April 23rd - Shakespeare's birthday, appropriately enough - dawned bright and clear...and stayed that way for the enitre day. As it did for the second rehearsal and block! The sun shone, but by crackey, it was nippy. Brisk wind blowing down the river. So the dress orders of the day were coats, hats and fluffy underthings! But everyone was there, script in hand and smile on face.


It didn't seem like a year had gone since last we were up in the car park, looking round and thinking 'Blimey! It's big here, isn't it?' Yet it is a year and the tempatation is to start work immediately, getting characters up and running, working on inflection, getting people used to being physical and trying not to drop into the age-old habit of delivering Shakespeare's lines in the fashion of Olivier or Gielgud. They were brilliant, and blazed the trail for much of what came after, but we look for something more natural, flowing... but without breaking the inherent poetry of what was written.

Hold yourself in check, don't get too deeply into that sort thing at the outset. All we're going to do for the first three or four rehearsals is plan the entrances and exits (directors notes already there!) and get basic positioning written down. All else happens later, as we get know each other once again, and get to grips with our own characters.

There is, without a doubt, a huge temptation to stop people and begin drilling down into their character...but the tempatation was resisted - just - and things rolled along in very satisfactory style. That's not to say that, as a director, you can't make notes about certain things that certain actors are doing...or not doing...for future reference. Director's script now virtually illegible and we've still got three months to go!

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What works best when you're out in the field with a group of people that are just starting out on an exciting and sometimes scary journey? Reminding them, and yourself, that, actually, you do this becuase it's fun; because you enjoy being with this group of people; because, when all is said and done, you enjoy hearing the audience laugh and applaud. That's the basic reason...others may have different motivations, and that's great...and always worth remembering.

So over the course of the first three or four rehearsals, we get movements and placements sorted and, while that's going on, the director chats with each of the cast to see if their idea of the character they are playing is anything like what s/he has in mind. Always helpful to be reading from the same script! And that's also part of the enjoyment: developing and discovering who it is you're going to be for the next three or more months. 

We only rehearse twice a week for about three hours on each of those days. So in the course of pulling the production together, we have the equivalent of eight twelve hour days to get the whole thing ready for the paying public. It really is an amazing achievement when you see what we manage to get up on the stage and the performances that the whole cast give.

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As you can see, the sun really did shine and aren't they a hardy bunch of Thesps? This was taken about fifteen minutes before we got underway with first blocking and it didn't take long for everyone to warm up. Adrenalin's a wonderful thing!

We move forward. As I write this, we have one more block at the castle (tonight, Tuesday 30th April) then we go to the Guildhall for about a month, then back up to the castle until we go live. Seems like quite a long time; but then it always does. And it always creeps up on you and before you can quote a line, it's opening night and you wonder where the time went.

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And here are just a couple of shots of everyone getting to grips with the space, the script, the wind and the strange bloke in the baseball cap...

Just being in the space where it will all eventually take place seems to give that extra little frisson to the process of walking up and down and getting people to come on and go off in the right places.

There's a definite atmosphere in this place...it's steeped in history and the very stones seem to quietly impart some sort of energy. They whisper their secrets and give us a clue as to what to might have been like to actually live, love and die in those turbulent times. It is just such a remarkably inspiring location. It's an honour to be able to perform here.

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Here we are, a month to the day since the last shots and words were posted, and we are all but finished at the Guildhall and preparing to go back to the castle and start the tweaks as we discover what does and doesn't work. Although the indoor rehearsal space might resemble the performance area, it is never the same. We know from experience that what appears to work inside might look wrong outside, give the wrong impression, and inside we are only working on one level - at the castle we have two or three, so looks change and the balance you thought you had has suddenly disappeared! Below are just a few pictures taken in the Guildhall as we rehearse...and featured are some of the actors who don't appear in the cast gallery above, including two new additions: France and Oswald for whom we have been searching the longest time! 

Cast is now pretty much complete, which takes a weight off of any director's shoulders.

HUGE THANKS TO KEITH GOULD WHO CAME ALONG AND DODGED ABOUT BETWEEN EVERYONE TO GET THESE SHOTS!

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Here, on the left, is Jason Smith, who will be playing the King of France, a servant (who Cornwall kills) and a Captain. On the right is Ernie, our Gloucester and in the background can be seen Ben and Shahar, obviously studying their lines!! 

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In this picture we have, on the left, Simon Fox, who will be Oswald; Gil Garland, centre, is playing Kent and the fella who looks as if he hasn't got a clue what's going on is 

Max Brandt, the director. He really hasn't!!

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Does anybody know what's happening? From front to back you can see Jon Miles (Lear), Sally Feetenby (Cordelia and the Fool) and Sam Duberley (Edgar - but I think he's in Tom O' Bedlam mode here). We do have fun.

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I think this was part of the warm-up session...that, or they're practising their indian folk dancing! On the left is Fred Radcliffe, who is playing Burgundy and another of the servants, 

and in the middle is Shanaugh Radcliffe (Goneril) 

who also painted the amazing picture of Lear for the posters. 

Talented bunch all round.

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How do you do and how do you do..? They both look as bemused as each other, in their own way. Kent and the Fool but probably not what will end up in the final version.

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Poor old Gloucester, just about to get gouged. Lurking in menacing fashion on the right is Jill Brock (Regan) and on the left is Lucy Nichols (Katherine aka Curran...but he was a bloke and she isn't!). Jason, Fred and Ernie await the action: 

there will be blood

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Just a couple of general shots that show both sides of a rehearsal studio to great effect. It's got to be fun, people have to feel relaxed enough to enjoy what they're doing and be suitably at ease to have a joke. Then suddenly, bang! You're back into it and the character, no matter how far a long you might be in her/his development, will creep up on you and take over. 

It really is one of the best places to be when everything is happening and we're all doing what we came to do!

June 4th, we're back at the castle and it seems as if all the work indoors over the last month has paid dividends. We had to tweak some of the positioning for sight-line purposes - that was only to be expected when you work on two or three levels instead of one - but generally the whole looks very, very promising. And being back at the castle seemed to energise everybody; the performances were up notches and there was a really positive atmosphere. Lots of laughter. You can't ask for much more on a rehearsal set. Excellent night all round, with more to come.

Anthony Chamberlain, the A/D on Lear, was on-hand to do work on fight choreography with Cornwall, Servant 1, Edgar and Edmund, which went very well too. Here are a few more pictures from the 'opening night' of rehearsals at Dartmouth castle.


THANKS TO KEITH GOULD, YET AGAIN, WHO PUTS IN HUGE AMOUNTS OF WORK

NOT ONLY TAKING THE PICTURES, BUT EDITING AND MAKING SURE THEY LOOK GREAT!

HUGE THANKS YET AGAIN KEITH.

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It's a serious business, tragedy...

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...or maybe not!

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This, apparently, is a fight choreography session with the Assistant Director...he's on the right.

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This is the other fight director...at least he's got a sword!

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But as we rehearse the opening and listen to others speaking their lines, we get to look at a view....

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 As Time Progresses...

Things always seem to come together in a massive rush! Today is Independance Day and it's been about a month since we last posted here...and there's a month to go before we're at the get-in and only a couple of days away from the opening night. Things build up in spectacular fashion: props are now an integral part of rehearsals; books are gradually disappearing; all the people who are taking on the peripheral roles are adding huge amounts of atmosphere to the over-all appearance and feel of the piece and there are extra things to rehearse.


In this production of King Lear - because this is the sort of thing that we, as a company, do quite a lot of - we have a couple of (appropriate, I think!) musical interludes that need to be woven into the fabric of the play without detracting from the drama of what we are attempting to achieve. And all this requires an extra effort from those actors who are taking this on, over and above anything else they may be doing in the play.

Below are a few shots from the initial rehearsals for the two sequences, all under the direction of our lovely choreographer, Lynne.

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Because we don't have the capacity to stage a full-blown battle - although who knows what might happen in future productions? - we resort to the age-old tradition of smoke and mirrors...in this instance, lots of smoke, very few mirrors! Sound effects, lighting, music and the fact that, we hope, the audience won't be expecting it, all add to the overall experience. Lynne has some superb ideas for both sequences and the actors got stuck in with relish...although, if you refer to some of the earlier pictures of where we perform, you might notice that a retreating army have several stone steps up which go - backwards. Not so easy.


The youngsters in the top set of pictures, along with several adults, are from another local company with whom we have an excellent relationship, and they're always enthusiastic and willing to have a go at anything we throw at them! The younger members seem not to be in the least bit phased by the size of the stage and audience; they love it as much as we do!


And then there are larger pieces of scenery that need to be sourced (that, at the moment, is still a pipe-line job!) and all the work this year's make-up lady is having to do in respect of SFX blood and prosthetics for Gloucester. All arriving in the not too distant future...I am reliably informed. 

You may also recall, up the page a piece, my feeble attempts at 'design' for the chair and stocks, that I sent to Mike...who also seemed to be unphased by my weird drawings and instructions. You might like to see what he managed to conjure. Pleased as punch am I.  

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As you can no doubt tell, I'm not the photographer that Keith is, by any manner of means, but mobile phone cameras, I've discovered, do have their uses.


I am truly amazed that Mike has managed to build these fabulous objects, with all the whistles and bells on the chair, from the crude scribblings I sent him about six weeks ago!


Jack seems unimpressed by his temporary incarceration, but when these props are employed up there on the stage, the effect will be exactly what I was looking for.

It's a perfect example of how we work together to get what we need...couldn't do any of this without all the people involved. Every last one of 'em! 

THE TRAGEDY of KING LEAR

Photographs by Keith Gould - August 10th 2013

Well, we did it!! And, if I may be permitted to say so, we did it in spectacular fashion. The pictures below are arranged in a storyline, so not only can you see what you missed, you can actually follow the story of Lear and his daughters, Gloucester and his sons and everything in between. The weather, for once, was truly fabulous - we didn't even have to think about using the wet-weather venue - and the audiences, once again, allowed us to push the boundaries and entertain them with something that many thought would be too dark and too depressing for such a beautiful setting. Lear is a story not just for our times  but for all time - please enjoy.

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King Lear welcomes to his court his three daughters, two of whom are married and the third, Cordelia, is to be betrothed to either the Duke of Burgundy or the King of France.

He asks his daughters which of them loves him the most so '...that we our largest bounty may extend where nature doth with merit challenge.'

He intends to divide his kingdom in three equal parts beyween his daughters and, dependsing upon their answers, he will decide which daughter receives which portion.

His eldest daughter, Goneril, begins '...a love that makes breath poor and speech unable; beyond all manner of so much I love you.'

Cordelia cannot enter into this unseemly competition and tells her father so. 'Why have my sisters husbands if they sauy they love you all?  Sure I shall never marry like my sisters to love my father all.'

Lear is beside himself with rage and disowns Cordelia, calling France and Burgundy to him to tell them that her dowry is no more and she is now his '...sometime daughter.'

Above, from left to right: ROB WILCOCK as Albany, husband to Goneril; 

SHAUNAGH RADCLIFFE as Goneril; LUCY NICHOLS as Kate; JON MILES as King Lear;

ELLIE BROCK as Cordelia's maid; MALCOLM MACINTOSH as Servant and 

SALLY FEETENBY as Cordelia

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SALLY FEETENBY - Cordelia; ELLIE BROCK - Maid; JON MILES - King Lear;

FRED RADCLIFFE as The Duke of Burgundy; BEN HAMILTON as EDMUND

On the far left is JASON SMITH as The King of France.

Lear tells France and Burgundy that they can marry Cordelia but that there will be no dowry. 'There she stands with our displeasure piec'd and nothing more.'

The Duke of Kent, Lear's long-time friend and advisor, protest this gross misjustice, '...check this hideous rashness...thy youngest daughter does not love thee least...whilst I can still vent clamour from my throat, I tell thee thou dost evil.'

Lear banishes Kent under threat of death. Burgundy refuse Cordelia but the King of France takes up the disowned daughter, citing her many virtues and telling her '...I take up what's cast away...(Cordelia) is Queen of us, of ours and our fair France.'

The Duke of Gloucester and his eldest, illegitimate son Edmund are witness to this madness. All retire but Goneril and her sister Regan (and Edmund, who remains unseen), who discuss the rashness of Lear's decisions and the fact that he will be living with them, on a month by month rota, with his entourage of a hundred knights. They are now in complete control of the kingdom, with their husbands.

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JON MILES - King Lear; GIL GARLAND as the faithful Duke of Kent

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JILL BROCK as Regan, Duchess of Cornwall;

SHAUNAGH RADCLIFFE - Goneril

Gloucester has two sons: the bastard Edmund and his elder, legitimate, brother Edgar. Gloucester is deeply disturbed by the turn of events and the banishment of Kent. Edmund is schemeing to convince his father that Edgar is plotting against his life and thus become the natural heir to all his father's lands and money. He shows Gloucester a letter, apprently from Edgar, trying to persuade Edmund to join the 'plot' and thus receive half of Gloucester's estates. Gloucester, thoroughly convinced of Edgar's treachery, sets the guard upon him to bring him to justice.

Regan and Goneril are concerned by their father's capriciousness and think that, in time, they too will suffer a similar fate to that of Cordelia and Kent. They begin to scheme to reduce the size of Lear's train and gain even more control over him. 

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ERNIE WINGEATT as the Duke of Gloucester; BEN HAMILTON - Edmund

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            SALLY FEETENBY as The Fool; JON MILES - King Lear                              MALCOLM MACINTOSH, JASON SMITH & FRED RADCLIFFE - Knights

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LEFT: SIMON FOX as Oswald; SHAUNAGH RADCLIFFE - Goneril


ABOVE: GIL GARLAND as Kent (now disguised as Caius); JON MILES - Lear; SIMON FOX - Oswald

Lear removes his court to the Duke of Albany's castle and begins to cause mayhem with his retinue amongst Goneril's servants. 

'By day and night he wrongs me! every hour he flashes in to one gross crime or another, I'll not endure it!'

She instructs her steward, Oswald, to treat her father disdainfully and igonre hiim where possible. These instructions are passed to others of her household. Lear returns from hunting and demands dinner and his Fool. Oswald ignores his instructions and, upon his return, Lear challenges him. 'Who am I sir?' 'My lady's father.' '...my lord's knave, you whoreson dog, cur!'

Kent trips Oswald at the heels and sends him packing. Goneril, on hearing of yet another misdemeanour, demands that Lear control his knights and reduce the size of his train and have them be men '...as may besort your age.'

Lear calls his curses down on her and packs up his entourage, leaving to join Regan and retain his full compliment of men.

Goneril instructs Oswald to go before to Regan and inform her of what she intends and for her sister to follow the same course.

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ABOVE: LUCY NICHOLS - Kate; BEN HAMILTON - Edmund


TOP RIGHT: SAM DUBERLEY as Edgar.

Regan, hearing of her father's argument with Goneril, removes to Gloucester's castle, the better to confound Lear.


At Gloucester's castle, Edmund hears news of Regan and the Duke's arrival from Kate, and knows it will aid his plan to disinherit Edmund. He persuades his brother that their father is seeking him as a traitor, telling him he must flee. Edmund draws his dagger, the better to convince Edgar he is trying to help him by pretending they fought. Edgar flies and Edmund, on hearing his father's approach, wounds himself and tells Gloucester that Edgar and he fought as Edgar tried to persuade him to murder their father.

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JILL BROCK as Regan, Duchess of Cornwall; ERNIE WINGEATT - Gloucester                                         VERNON DAVIS as the Duke of Cornwall

Regan and Cornwall arrive at Gloucester's court, having heard the news that Edgar sought Gloucester's life and that Edmund was wounded in protecting his father. Both the Duke and Duchess are even more determined to refuse Lear access to their home whilst his retinue is so large. Edmund and Regan are becoming closer and Edmund sees a way to advance his status even further.

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Kent and Oswald arrive at Gloucester's castle, both with letters for Regan. Kent carries Lear's letter telling Regan of Goneril's harshness and Oswald carries instructions from Goneril, telling Regan that neither of them should accept Lear into their houses with any number of followers whatsoever.

Kent recognises Oswald as the servant who was disrespectful to Lear and realises that he has a note that will disenfranchise Lear and cause even greater hurt; Kent knows that his master is teetering on the brink of madness because of his daughter's cruelty. 

He draws his sword and beats Oswald. Cornwall and Regan break up the fight and condemn Kent to night in the stocks. Whilst Kent is thus imprisoned, he reads a letter from Cordelia, who knows of her father's plight and has raised an army in France to invade Engalnd and restore the King to his rightful place and thwart her sisters.

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Lear arrives at Gloucester's castle and is enraged to find his servant and messenger in the stocks. He demands that Gloucester fetch the Duke and Duchess to explain their actions. The Fool attempts to calm Lear, whose mental state is rapidly  declining.


Edgar, having heard the watch is seeking him, runs from his home and vows to hide amongst the Bedlam Beggars. The beggars are poor, destitute madmen who live on the heath, begging a living from local sheep farmers.


Goneril arrives at Gloucester's castle and, with her sister, avows that Lear shall not live with either of them untill he dismisses all his followers. Lear takes to horse and disappears out into the gathering storm. Gloucester pursues him but cannot stop him from leaving. Cornwall and the sisters command him not to follow again nor to offer the king any succour

 '...my lord, entreat him by no means to stay.'  '...shut up your doors, he's attended by a desperate train, and what they may incense him to...wisdom bids fear.'



ACT TWO

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The storm rages  and the disguised Kent, whilst searching for the King, meets another of Lear's allies who also searches for his master.  Kent relates what has befallen the king and entreats the knight to travel to Dover where '...from France there comes a power into this scattr'd kingdom...'   and where he will meet with well-armed friends, sympathetic to the King's cause and led by Cordelia. Kent hands the knight a ring to give to Cordelia which will prove to him that Kent is '...much more than my out-wall...and she will tell you who that fellow is that yet you do not know.'

The two part and contiue their search for the maddened king whose only company is the Fool, who '...labours to out-jest his heart-strook injuries.'

JAMES OSBEN as The Knight; GIL GARLAND - Kent

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Lear, accompanied by the Fool, wanders the wasteland, raging against the cruelty of his ungrateful daughters, finally slipping over the edge into madness. Kent finds the pair at the height of the storm and persuades them to follow him to a nearby hovel that will offer them some scant shelter from the terrifying storm. The King is loathe to follow, but, seeing how miserable his fool is, gives over his cloak. '...poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart that's sorry yet for thee.'

The Fool sings a calming song for Lear as they lead the King to the nearby shelter. 'He that has but a little tiny wit, with a hey-ho the wind and the rain...'


Meanwhile, at Gloucester's castle, the Duke is talking with his son, Edmund, deploring the cruelty of Regan, Goneril and the Dukes, and telling him that he dislikes the action being taken against the king. He also tells Edmund that he has received a letter from Cordelia which has persuaded him that they should search for the hapless monarch and support him. He tells Edmund that he is going to seek the King and that, should the Duke of Cornwall ask for him, then Edmund is to say that he is sick and gone to bed.

'If I die for this, as no less is threatened me, the king must be relieved.'

This plays right into Edmund's hands and he goes immediately to the Duke of Cornwall and tells him of Gloucester's treachery. Cornwall makes Edmund Earl of Gloucester and sends out guards to apprehend Edmund's father and punish him for his betrayal.

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THE BEDLAM BEGGARS played (in no particular order) by - Ellie Brock; Freya Hoben; Ben Tonkin; Talia Robens; Shirley Tonkin & Sarah Robens.

Lear is led to the hovel by Kent and the king sees, lurking in the shadows and rain, the '...poor, naked wretches...' that are the bedlam beggars. The Fool enters the hovel and is almost immediately chased out by Poor Tom, actually Edgar in disguise and hiding from his father's vengeance, having no idea what is happening at court. 

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