Review: King Lear, Portsmouth City Museum Gardens

Joseph Marcell as King Lear
Joseph Marcell as King Lear

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This was one of Shakespeare’s finest tragedies - red in tooth and claw - open to the elements, and all that entails.

It was about 20 minutes into Friday night’s performance in the museum gardens that the rain started.

The first half’s climactic storm scene was well staged, but this time out the weather played its own part for real as well.

Sadly the rain meant that a lot of people left at the interval

And more fool them - they missed a stunning second half.

Joseph Marcell was convincing as Lear in this production by the Globe Theatre, and his portrayal of the monarch’s descent in to madness was finely judged.

With only eight actors in the cast, many of them took on multiple roles, signified by some rapid costume changes and shifts in mannerisms.

While this may sound a touch contrived, in practice it worked well, and you soon forgot that it was the same actor in different roles (except in one notable scene where they deliberately drew attention to it).

Finding fault in the cast would be churlish. They all played their numerous parts well, but Daniel Pirrie’s duplicitous Edmund, Alex Mugnaioni’s Edgar and Bethan Cullinane’s Fool all stood out.

Gwendolen Chatfield and Shanaya Rafaat as Lear’s daughters Goneril and Regan were chillingly ruthless.

And the final scene, where Lear brought in Cordelia, played again by Cullinane, was, literally, heart-breaking stuff.

Marcell certainly banished any memories of his best known role - Geoffrey the butler in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

There are two more performances today, and the forecast may be better for them, but no-one who stayed to the end of last night’s performance will forget it any time soon. And not just because of the rain.