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King Lear - Cockpit Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

DARKER Purpose Theatre is presenting King Lear, Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, at the Cockpit Theatre – from March 6 to March 29, 2014.

Playing the title role will be venerated stage and screen actor David Ryall, with his real-life daughter Charlie Ryall as Lear’s youngest and truest daughter, Cordelia. Lewis Reynolds directs.

The cast also includes Dominic Kelly (as Edgar), Michael Luke Walsh (Edmund), Wendy Morgan (Goneril), Nikki Leigh Scott (Regan), Dan MacLane (Kent), Stephen Christos (Gloucester), Ryan Wichert (Fool), Adam Drew, Ian Hallard, Anna Hawkes, Sanee Patell, Imogen Ryall, Alex Vendittelli and Karl Williams.

Darker Purpose Theatre has been founded to produce King Lear, a project which has emerged through the collaboration of David Ryall and Lewis Reynolds. The company intends to focus on texts which are particularly conducive to fostering complicity between audience and performers.

They aim to foster collaboration between experienced professionals and creators at the start of their career, passing on traditions and techniques whilst allowing them to evolve with the changing world, and to give younger creators the benefit of working with seasoned practitioners.

This staging comes as preparations are made across the UK for the 450th celebrations of Shakespeare’s birth on April 23, with Shakespeare Week in schools, museums, cinemas and libraries (March 17 to March 23) leading up to events including a weekend in Stratford-Upon-Avon April 26 and 27) and a special Summer 2014 season from the Royal Shakespeare Company.

David Ryall was a member of Laurence Olivier’s company with the National Theatre at the Old Vic from 1965 to 1973 where he performed in plays including Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Royal Hunt of the Sun and Tyger. His other work at the National Theatre includes Guys and Dolls, The Beggar’s Opera, Coriolanus and Animal Farm (Clarence Derwent Award, 1985).

His other notable stage appearances include Feste in Peter Hall’s Twelfth Night (1994 and 2011) and Polonius in Hamlet (nominated for the Helen Hayes Award in the USA, 1997).

On screen, he has appeared in the BBC1 sitcom Outnumbered (as Frank/Granddad from 2007 to 2011), The Knowledge, The Singing Detective, Shelley, Inspector Morse, State of Play, Empire of the Sun, Truly, Madly, Deeply, Two Men Went to War and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (as Elphias Doge).

About King Lear he said: “Lewis’s approach to the verse most encouragingly reminds me of Peter Hall’s. We’re working hard to make it clear, and I think building something quite beautiful. It’s wonderful – and rather daunting – to be playing opposite Charlie as Cordelia. I guess it’s important to try to pass things on for the next generation, as undoubtedly has Hall.”

Lewis Reynolds originally trained as an actor at the National Youth Theatre and Cambridge Footlights before training as a director at Welsh National Opera and the Royal Opera. In 2009 his London debut, Mrs Lazarus (words by Carol Ann Duffy), was named “premiere of the year” in Classical Music Magazine and he was appointed Opera Director in Residence of the Nordisk Sångfestival in Lapland. In 2011 he adapted and directed Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis at The Scoop at More London.

He has translated and directed operas at the Arcola Theatre (Stoneheart), the King’s Head Theatre (Hansel and Gretel, The Medium, The Telephone, Americana), St John’s Smith Square (L’enfant et les sortilèges) and in 2013, he directed The Four Note Opera for Dioneo. In 2012, he directed Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di anima e di corpo in Venice with Philip Thorby conducting; the production was subsequently revived in the UK. Later this year, he will direct Janos Vajda’s Mario and the Magician.

Reynolds said: “The idea of doing King Lear came about as David Ryall and I developed a relationship on Iphigenia at Aulis. I met David on the District line. He was playing Feste in Peter Hall’s production of Twelfth Night at the National Theatre. I asked him whether he would play Calchas in Iphigenia; he agreed, and ended up playing Clytemnestra as well. As David and I found we enjoyed working together, we started talking about Lear. It was a fantasy at first, but in the end, we thought, why not?”

King Lear is designed by Alexander McPherson, with lighting by Davy Cunningham and sound by John Leonard and Philip Matejtschuk. Assistant director is Guido Martin Brandis.

King Lear is suitable for ages 11+.

Tickets: £15, £12 concessions – available from the box office on 020 7258 2925 or online at thecockpit.org.uk/show/king_lear.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.15pm, Saturday matinees at 2.15pm (not March 8).

Running Time: 3 hours (including interval).

Hidden, written and performed by Laura Lindsay and Peter Carruthers, runs at the Cockpit Theatre from April 8 to April 12, 2014.