At Havana Theatre until March 17
When you duck during the dagger fights and dodge blood spatter throughout the eye-gouging scene, you know youre on intimate terms with Shakespeares King Lear. Director Kevin Bennett puts the performers in such close proximity to the audience that he creates an immediate sense of inclusion. A lusty, full ensemble choreographed dance (by Lisa Goebel) and a cheeky prologue usher in Act 1; were already hooked.
Set designer Shizuka Kai puts two rows of seats on three sides of a narrow, red and grey tiled alley where most of the action happens. But the actors also move between the rows; one duel (choreographed by David Bloom) even happens over the heads of those in the first, floor-level row. Performers frequently lean on or touch audience members or speak directly to them; one paying customer even had to give up his seatbrieflyso Gloucester could be tortured in it.
Bennett brings together some of Vancouvers finest: Simon Webb (Lear), Anthony F. Ingram (Gloucester) and David Bloom (Kent)veterans all and at the pinnacle of their craft. Watching these three work together is pure joy. And then there are the young actors, including Katherine Gauthier (Cordelia), Julie McIsaac (Edgar) and Evan Frayne (Edmund).
Sebastian Kroon is a standout in this production; he plays Lears Fool with such desperation that it sends the tragedy to new heights. Kroon and Webbs scenes together are heart-stoppingly tender. And when Lear cradles Cordelias lifeless body, Webb has us close to tears.
Completing this Honest Fishmongers Equity Co-Op cast are Renee Bucciarelli, Chris Cochrane, Adele Noronha, Ashley OConnell and Joel Stephanson.
Action packed, this inventive production could, nevertheless, benefit from even a bit more judicious cutting especially in the long monologues in the second half.
But its a Lear like no other. Be bold; jump in with both feet.