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This article is taken from PN Review 122, Volume 24 Number 6, July - August 1998.

Lear, Godot, Waste & Other Plays (2) T.J.G. Harris

There was no scattering allusiveness in the KPP production of King Lear that was on at the Young Vic last summer. Kathryn Hunter was in the title role, and the director was also a woman: Helena Kaut-Howson. The production was founded in a firm understanding of the play, and all the various strands that make up the story of this tragedy were allowed their being and value.

The production was 'rough' and eclectic, in modern dress, and seemed to be set in a wintry North-Eastern Europe. Originally, there was an extended prelude that presented the play as the dream of an old woman dying in a nursing home, and the end returned us to the beginning, stepping out of the dream of Lear into the 'reality' of the nursing home with the death of Lear-and-dreamer. The ending was dropped, wisely: Shakespeare's universe is not closed, either within the putative mind of God (in this, Shakespeare is the contrary of Dante, who was so important to the modernists and to Beckett), or within some single subjectivity - even Macbeth ends not simply with the death of the tyrant but with Malcolm changing the political order of Scotland. But a pared-down prelude was kept, with wheelchairs, porters' trolleys, a bath etc., which were subsequently used with great inventiveness as sledges, carts, thrones, troughs... helping also to integrate the action as Perrin's gestures did in Happy Days.

Kathryn Hunter's performance had great depth and truth. What I admired ...

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