The touring arm of the Globe theatre is quietly and diligently bringing terrific work out all around the country, and indeed the world, with little fanfare or fuss and is doing so with some terrific results. Set upon a small, wooden travelling Elizabethan stage and setting up in gardens, parks and festival sites it is just as Shakespeare would have immediately recognised touring theatre of the age. There is always a magical earthiness to Shakespeare under the stars (and sometimes in the rain) that should be experienced by everyone at least once in their lives.
One of two tours for the Globe this year this is a repeat of last year’s successful touring production of King Lear, again with Joseph Marcell in the title role. Lear is a play that despite its epic scale in terms of tragedy and loss is often far more effective when played on a smaller scale. Stripped back to its bare necessities in the same way that the mad old King finds himself later in the play it becomes far more revealing and touching.
With a company of just eight onstage all performing multiple roles Bill Buckhurst’s production zips along with an unapologetic bawdiness about it that brings humour into the piece aplenty yet still manages poignancy when needed.
Marcell shrugs off his Fresh Prince fame with ease and displays a dignified King that is losing his grip on power. He never really hits full throttle with his rage but does manage to slow things down enough with some touching moments in the final scenes. In the opening though we see little sign of the madness approaching and it is here that Marcell leaves you wanting him to dig deeper.
Sharing the roles of Cordelia and The Fool Bethan Cullinane shines wonderfully. Of all of the cast it is she that displays real emotion and achieves that fine line with the fool of making him funny whilst displaying a genuine love for his King and master. There is solid work too from Bill Nash and John Stahl as Kent and Gloucester, along with Alex Mugnaioni and Daniel Pirrie as Edgar and Edmund.
There is an easy clarity to this Lear that gives it far less edge but makes it far more accessible, something that is needed when sat with picnics and champagne!