REVIEW: King Lear with a twist of humour at Cambridge

King Lear by William Shakespeare

Presented by The Globe Theatre on Tour

The Master’s Garden, Corpus Christie College, Cambridge

TRAGEDY with a sense of humour is what you get from The Globe on Tour. The plays start with music and end with a dance and the bits in between aren’t that harrowing either because you are amused at the slick role changes.

The audience is allowed into the secrets of the actor’s craft by seeing eight players cover all the roles - including in Lear, producing spectacular sound effects during the storm. On a small, wooden stage set up in a garden, you imagine this is how strolling players in Shakespeare’s day presented their shows, with talent, fortitude and charm and this is why they worked.

Joseph Marcell, best known for his role as Geoffrey in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is a lithe and magnificent King Lear, able to evoke both horror at his venom when he banishes one daughter and curses the other and pity for his plight when he loses everything. He plays him as the daft, vain old man that he has become, yet vulnerable and with vestiges of what once made people love him.

Ruth Everett is as evil a Goneril as you could wish for. There’s one in every office.

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It was great to see the dual roles, Dickon Tyrrell with his trusty Earl of Kent, disguising himself here as a Geordie, lending a lovely earthiness to the character that you felt you could slice up and have with a nice cup of tea, Pet. Lovely to see an actor with such authority.

Bethan Cullinane is both a wholesome Cordelia and an energetic Fool, who you can see doing a turn at stand-up and Oliver Boot entertains with élan as he switches between the bastard Edmund and the camp servant Oswald.

On a balmy, summer evening, in an ancient garden, as Gloucester’s eyes get gouged out and thrown to the audience. Life doesn’t get a lot better than this.

INFORMATION: Runs until Saturday, July 27. Tickets from Cambridge Arts Theatre.