Review – King Lear “with sheep” – Courtyard Theater

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The premise sounds enticing (per the Courtyard Theater’s website): – “A stubborn director is trying to put on a production of King Lear with a cast composed solely of sheep.” This thrilling intro seems to be enough to entice a sell-out audience to the basement of the Courtyard Theater, where we sat, reading notes on personal safety in barnyard conditions, and all apparently overwhelmingly excited to see a play in which animals are the star.

Once upstairs, there are several interesting things to note. First, when the sheep enter the auditorium, the smell is overwhelming. My God, the lanolin and the shit. It was an intense experience. Second, the sightlines are terrible. I was in the fifth row and the performers were mostly invisible – by which I mean “the sheep,” who are only knee height for a standard actor and thus nearly invisible within the confines of The Courtyard’s big stage.

Third: the premise. The whole thing is apparently a joke, which is fine with most of the audience because they are just there to see some cute sheep and have a laugh. I, however, was desperately hoping that my third attempt at King Lear this year would be at least somewhat redeeming, given that the first attempt was so poorly acted I snuck out at the interval (yes this was the Brian Blessed King Lear) and the second attempt had the lead actor insulting the audience by referring to the script for most of the show (a href=”https://webcowgirl.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/review-king-lear-the-malachites-at-peckham-asylum-chapel/”>John Mcenery was rightly ashamed of himself). How it broke down in reality wass 15 minutes of a single actor making faces and excuses; fifteen minutes of the same actor talking to costumed sheep about their failures as actors; and fifteen minutes of the three best scenes from King Lear (the storm; Gloucester’s eyes being poked out; Cordelia’s death scene, with Lear cradling a black Shetland sheep in his arms) done with sheep. None of it was particularly great, but it was short and it did give rise to about fifty puns which my husband and I rattled off at speed both before and after the show. I could share them with you, but instead I’ll say that the smell of sheep and the taste of the puns pretty much is all that this show left me with. Still: cheap and fast and still better than the other two performances, this show would have been ideal fare between other serious productions at a fringe festival, but seemed rather trivial to make a night out of when so many richer things were on offer.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday August 15th, 2015. It’ll be back on September 23rd for a longer run.)

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