On the 23rd of March the team behind the forthcoming production of King Lear for On the Rocks 2011 held an open rehearsal. Theatre and Shakespeare enthusiasts alike came along to watch the team at work, first blocking out a scene and then talking it through with the audience.

Director Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie and producer Charlotte Baker, together ‘Hands in the Air Productions’, are the duo behind the staging. Introducing the audience to the play and their interpretation of it, their approach was both professional and accessible. After talking through the set design they invited the audience to participate in warm-up exercises before beginning work on one of the key opening scenes of Lear. It was fascinating to see Cannon-Brownlie at work, so that an audience used only really to seeing the finished product could get some perspective on the magnitude of the role a director really plays. Everything, down to characters’ individual positions on the stage and their facial expressions at any given moment, has been thought out and debated over. The cast were keen to contribute their own ideas and opinions, all of which were taken into consideration by Cannon-Brownlie and discussed with the group. Audience members too were invited to ask questions and give their own opinions and suggestions on the staging.

One of Katy Schurr's initial set sketches was passed around at the open rehearsal. Click to see full-sized image.

The production team’s casting choices could be construed as controversial; in the least, they are unusual. Sunny Moodie is an unconventionally young Lear – yet he seems able to convey the character’s gravitas and weariness just as credibly as any older actor. Casting Carly Brown in the typically male role of Kent was another interesting decision, but she carries it off well and is able to underline the qualities of the character, such as loyalty, which don’t depend on his gender. In fact, these seem like well thought-out and intelligent decisions on the part of the production team that demonstrate a thorough understanding of the play, which can lead only to a fascinating new interpretation.

In the run-up to On the Rocks 2011, King Lear is already standing out as one to watch. With its dedicated production team and outstanding cast it is sure to be a highlight of the festival.

 

Alex Mullarky

 

King Lear will be playing on the Byre Mainstage on Tuesday 19 April, 7pm, and Wednesday 20 April, 2pm & 7pm.

Images: Photo by Mrija Gupta, set sketch by Katy Schurr