King Lear (Harlos Productions)

rsz_lear0622Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Oct 2 – 13, 2013
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Scarlett Ritchie
Actors: Gertraud Ingeborg, David Ritchie
Image above from 2006 production

Theatre review
Harlos Productions’ abridged 60-minute version of King Lear comprises key scenes from the play, joined by a narrator’s summary of events in between. The abbreviation of the plot obviously removes a lot of its development of tension and emotional involvement from the original experience, but what is created with just two players, is a theatrical entity that focuses squarely on the art of performance and storytelling. In the hands of Gertraud Ingeborg and David Ritchie, it is clear that the art form in question is a noble one.

Borrowing from Japanese and Chinese performance styles, both actors articulate their parts distinctly, almost operatically. Their stylistic gestures connect them to the audience, as they guide our eyes into the trajectories of the story. They often speak their lines directly into the fourth wall as though in the form of a narrator, inviting us to admire the beauty in their every movement and enunciation. Indeed, Ingeborg and Ritchie present to us, a craft that is effortless, confident, and thoroughly accomplished. Ingeborg in particular is manifestly comfortable and lively in all her roles, taking on each part with enthusiastic ease, and delighting us with a presence that can only be described as riveting.

Scarlett Ritchie’s direction brings out the best in both actors. We are shown the full range of their impressive skill, which gives the show an exciting feel of constant variation, and that variation is elemental in engaging the audience’s emotions. Props and costumes are minimal, but all items are utilised effectively. The director makes us read those inanimate objects in a specific way, and uses them to accurately shape our perspectives.

Even though the end of the piece is emotionally powerful, and Shakespeare’s epic story is ultimately told successfully, it is the art of theatre creation that triumphs in this production. In one hour, we see clearly the meaning of art, and realise the reverence that we must have for serious art makers.