Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival presents King Lear
CJSF volunteer, Aryana Sye, reviews the Bard on the Beach performance of King Lear.
“Can an old fool be a babe again?”
This question ascribes to the modernized version of the Shakespeare’s classic King Lear on the Mainstage this year at Bard on the Beach. Situated right below the stage, the backdrop of the North Shore Mountains and the finest glass of pinot in tow, I was ready to divulge into Shakespearean Theatre.
King Lear is an aging patriarchal figure that decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. He divides his kingdom solely on his daughter’s declaration of love for him. Of his three daughter’s Cordelia personifies the truth and says nothing more and nothing less, while Regan and Goneril offer adulation and lies. Loyal and true friend of Lear, the Earl of Kent tries to persuade Lear from making such a brash decision. Lear is not persuaded but spun into a fit of rage and anger, thereby banishing both the Earl of Kent and Cordelia. After leaving Cordelia without a dowry and disowning her, Lear divides his kingdom between his two daughters. This decision of Lear’s is what ultimately led to his own downfall and the tangled web of lies, betrayal and treachery; the remaining characters impose upon themselves for their quest of power and affluence.
The contemporary version of King Lear presented at Bard 2008 sets this great tragedy in the future, when English-French relations have weakened and international policy is as delicate as the mind of the aging monarch. I can relate with this classic tragedy as it has at one point played out not only in my own life but those close to me. It’s the plight between money and power, about aging and youth; it’s about dividing equal shares amongst the people involved. It’s messy and complicated and can be a contentious subject to discuss.
Having read Lear when I myself was a wee babe, I never quite gathered the unexpected and unrelenting hardship displayed throughout the play. I never connected the parallels between Lear and humanity, and that hardship is part of the human condition. Ideas of aging, fragile international policy and the illnesses of the elderly are all themes King Lear seeks to reveal within the lines spoken and the relationships the characters share with one another. Having seen King Lear at this latter stage in my life, I am reminded how growing old brings about unexpected change both physically and mentally. How becoming older brings about the loss and acceptance of youth lost and coming to terms with what is to ensue. Though when inheritance is thrown into the mix, the influence of money and power become grey areas of topic. Aspects of trust and loyalty become relevant and shape our relations with family members. The mere fact is how the death of our parents can govern how we live the rest of our lives.
The pluralities between my own experiences and that of King Lear are that when presented with the opportunity, we would do anything in the name of love. One thing is true and does not change with the passing of years, the feeling of being loved and that of loving.