In the ancient realm of King Lear the death count is as high as Hamlet, betrayals on a par with Macbeth and the blood as thick and fast-flowing as Titus Andronicus. Murder, misery and mutilations drive Michael Buffong’s mesmerising adaptation of King Lear, one of William Shakespeare’s most violent and tragic plays.
It was a memorable night at the Royal Exchange, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, by watching Don Warrington master the lead role of the royal patriarch, who descends into madness. The twisting plot of King Lear requires careful exposition at the start that quickly builds momentum. Buffong’s excellent cast, including Philip Whitchurch and Wil Johnson, deliver sword fights and despicable deeds one after the other, after the other, after the other, until Lear’s tragic downfall is complete. At over three hours long, one audience member commented that, “there was a lot of shouting”. Take heed – this is no Midsummer’s Night Dream but a play charting the catastrophic breakdown of a country and family – clearly there is going to be a lot of shouting.