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King Lear

Circa Theatre, Wellington, New Zealand
14 May - 18 June 2016

Written by William Shakespeare; directed by Michael Hurst

King Lear
  Ray Henwood  
Alex Halstead
  Callum McSorley
  Ken Blackburn  
Charlotte Cook
  Connor McNab
  Carmel McGlone  
Hailey Ibold
  Jamie Wallace-Thexton
  Claire Waldron  
Jordan Murphy
  Kelly Willis-Pine


  Neenah Dekkers-Reihana  
Monica Reid
  Morgan Hopkins
Lear's Fool
  Gavin Rutherford  
Olivia Fox
  Samantha Geraghty
  Stephen Papps  
  Andrew Paterson  
  Guy Langford  
Director, Fight Choreographer
  Michael Hurst
  Todd Rippon  
Set and Lighting Design
  Andrew Foster
  Peter Hambleton  
Costume Design
  Gillie Coxill
  Nick Dunbar  
Music and Sound Design
  Jason Smith
Produced by
  Carolyn Henwood


Well, it's not for the faint hearted, that's for sure.  Lear drags us across some very bleak ground, and just when we think we might have arrived, it throws us over the edge of doom.  I think the play is unique in its punishment of folly, true folly, folly created by hubris, stubbornness, ungoverned willfulness, lack of sight.

Of course, blindness, both physical and notional, is essential to the play, in which the universe hangs in the air between the ideas of "nothing" and "never".  In the first scene, when Lear asks Cordelia to give a loving speech just like her two sisters (only better), we see this:

Lear: What can you say
To draw a third more opulent than your sisters?
Cordelia: Nothing, my lord.
Lear: Nothing?
Cordelia: Nothing.
Lear: Nothing will come from nothing, speak again.

Five "nothings - and from here, chaos.

At the end of the play, as Lear holds Cordelia:

Lear: Thou'lt come no more.
Never, never, never, never, never.

Five "nevers" - and from here, oblivion.

And this is only a single observation in a play absolutely loaded with resonances and acute observations about everything from the infirmities of age to the meaning of life - "men must endure their going hence even as their coming hither; ripeness is all".

But it's also a play, a drama, and as such it is replete with plotting, civil war, torture, sex, murder, betrayal, love, forgiveness, humour (though bitter) and a good fight at the end.  In some ways, it's like Dr. Who's Tardis - bigger on the inside.  As we unpacked the action in rehearsals, we kept opening enormous caverns of significance, where the play seems to reach beyond its verbal confines.

Which really sums it up.  It's a play bigger than itself.  It goes too far.  It challenges further.  It asks us to consider all or nothing, like zero, the number of the Fool, nothing and everything at the same time.  And the hope, the light in the distance, lies in the fact of our humanity - we witness and, because it isn't us, we see beyond the characters; we see that we need the good, the balance, the human kindness, the love and the true self-regard inherent in us all, because at the end of the play, we are all in this together.


Michael, Andrew Paterson, Guy Langford

Andrew Paterson, Ken Blackburn

Carmel McGlone, Todd Rippon, Stephen Papps, Peter Hambleton, Ray Henwood

Nick Dunbar, Carmel McGlone, Michael, Todd Rippon, Neenah Dekkers-Reihana, Ray Henwood, Peter Hambleton

Claire Waldron, Carmel McGlone, Michael, Neenah Dekkers-Reihana

Reviews of King Lear

RadioNZ:  "director Michael Hurst has created an astounding production ... Michael Hurst does a brilliant job moving us, our focus, around the stage ... it's spectacularly directed".

Theatreview: "Hurst's direction is spectacular.  The story is clear, the characters well developed, each carrying a clear backstory. He has created a wonderful production that brings all creatives onto the same page and delivers with gusto.  The musty, bleak world is balanced by some very fine comedy - I think a revelation for some in the audience.  The choreography keeps the relationships between the characters fresh and alive, our eye moving and roving or being brought to a particular point for emphasis.  With the designers he creates the many and various locations with ease ... I will definitely be going back for a further viewing".

Middle C:  "Stage traditionalists must feel as though they get a hard time of it these days, but they can take heart from the pleasure and satisfaction to be had when encountering updated productions whose creators and organizers know what they're about. So it was on Saturday night at Circa Theatre with director Michael Hurst's production of Lear ... For Circa and for the people involved in this production it all seemed to this audience member as beautiful and as deep as one might have a right to receive.".

Kiwi Blog:  "a stunningly good show. I'd even say it was theatre at its finest".

Salient:  "The entire cast had a visceral synergy, reflecting Hurst's desire for interesting stage dynamics and patterns. ... I could not speak more highly of this skilful and enthralling staging of King Lear ".

Stuff:  "Circa's production, directed by Michael Hurst ... everything comes together with consummate ease in a simple, but innovatively staged version ... All of this makes this Shakespearean tragedy one well worth seeing.".

Dominion Post: "The Circa production explores the play's twinned themes of sight and insight, pride and ignorance, blindness and madness, chaos and darkness ... Director Hurst ... comments - 'as we unpacked the action in rehearsals, we kept opening enormous caverns of significance, where the play seems to reach beyond its verbal confines.' Which is, of course, precisely why Shakespeare's tragedies remain so relevant and timely even today".