What if king lear were a woman?
WILLMOTT IS CERTAINLY PROVING HIMSELF AS ONE OF LONDON'S MOST DIVERSE AND ADVENTUROUS THEATRE DIRECTORS.
Even those who know King Lear inside out will have their eyes opened
Ursula Mohan gives a tremendous performance as the title character.
THEATRE IS ALL ABOUT
WEST END FRAME
A TENDER AND MOVING PRODUCTION
It’s a thrill to watch Mohan’s wrenching performance up close. Cordelia’s death feels agonising when witnessed by her mother and that awful line – ‘O, you are men of stones’ – hits harder still when uttered by a woman.
NOTHING IS LOST IN
CASTING A WOMAN AS LEAR
Instead the core of the tragedies critique on gender is more powerfully brought home. This production reminds us that Shakespeare’s plays resonate beyond mainstream interpretations
I WAS PROFOUNDLY MOVED
BBC RADIO 3
A FANTASTIC CONCEPT
The acting was incredible
Ursula Mohan as Lear gives a truly remarkable performance
This production brings new focus to Shakespeare's great tragedy. Ursula Mohan is mesmerising as she wrestles with power, motherhood and growing old.
DR PRETI TANEJA BBC
A TREMENDOUS AND CAPTIVATING LEAR
Jeater and Duncan’s lifelike portrayal of the evil that springs from Goneril and Regan’s tested patience has an exceptionally unsettling quality.
THE ACTING WAS INCREDIBLE
– particularly Rikki Lawton (Edmund), Richard Derrington (Gloucester) and Joseph Taylor (the Fool) – and the vast majority of the cast really know how to deliver Shakespeare’s lines clearly and passionately. This is clear from the way the audience was engaged with the cast and their predicaments.
Ursula Mohan as Lear gives a truly remarkable performance as Lear, both emotionally and physically. Not for one moment did it seem unnatural that she was a woman – it was completely believable and certain lines took on new meaning when said by a queen rather than a king, particularly when Lear realises that the power has gone to her two elder daughters’ heads.
URSULA MOHAN STEPS INTO THIS MOST ICONIC OF SHAKESPEAREAN ROLES, IN WHAT PROVES TO BE A FASCINATING PIECE OF THEATRE.
There’s a fine trio of performances from Richard Derrington’s infinitely compassionate Gloucester, Tom McCarron’s earnestly well-toned Edgar and Rikki Lawton’s wickedly seductive Edmund. Lawton’s conspiratorial glint is perfect for seducing us the audience into forgiving even his most dastardly of deeds and I loved the intensity that McCarron’s brought to the wronged heir, his opiate-led descent into Poor Tom territory horrifically compelling.
THERE OUGHT TO BE CLOWNS
WILLMOTT’S PRODUCTION IS WELL WORTH CATCHING AS AN ANTIDOTE TO THE RUSSELL BEALE KING LEAR AT THE NATIONAL.
Rikki Lawton is a splendidly evil, sexy Edmund, Claire Jeater and Felicity Duncan impressive as Regan and Goneril, while Richard Derrington makes a fine,d noble Gloucester
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
A REFRESHING NEW LOOK AT KING LEAR
especially alert to the play’s textures and its ripeness for a modern re-imagining. As they tussle over the forged letter, for instance, Richard Derrington (Gloucester) and Rikki Lawton (Edmund) turn what is commonly played as a series of static set-pieces into a dynamic, nuanced exchange.
The disruption of Edgar’s very Renaissance harmony with the order of things is perfectly translated into the present day when he emerges engaged in a meticulous exercise regime and descends into drug abuse (I particularly enjoyed the transformation of the pin that Poor Tom sticks into his arm, a ‘horrible object’, into a heroin-filled syringe).
This production is characterised, too, by an insightful naturalism. Claire Jeater and Felicity Duncan never falter as the glamorous, swaggering, controlling sisters Goneril and Regan. In the windowless Union Theatre, the violence in this Lear has all of the concentrated immediacy of a lethal backroom roughhouse. Most strikingly, France’s defeat is portrayed not (as is most common) as a set of alarums and skirmishes in the far distance whilst the stage is occupied solely by Gloucester sitting under a tree. Instead it is heart-rendingly close to us: their blows shaking the table around which the audience are invited to sit and encircle the action, Edmund beats France to a pulp in front of Cordelia.
As Lear, Mohan is lyrically tender and luxuriatingly spiteful, determined to enjoy herself in her retirement and completely lost when her eagerly-awaited plans for the good life sour. Thanks to the constant presence of the Fool in surgeon’s garb, this Lear is sick and vulnerable from the start – her tragedy seems not so much a change in her character as the fact that she becomes less and less able to hide her weaknesses from others
Despite this production’s tagline ‘What if King Lear was a woman?’, questions of gender are irrelevant when weighing Mohan’s interpretation of the character as a uniquely resonant one. Mohan’s Queen evokes what for many audience members will be an unnervingly familiar image – the stroppy elderly relative battling dementia, whose demands for love and help deplete the time and threaten the independence of her children.
URSULA MOHAN AS QUEEN LEAR RISES VALIANTLY TO THE CHALLENGES OF THE ROLE
and gets strong support from her director and first-rate cast. Willmott’s production is well worth catching as an antidote to the Russell Beale King Lear at the National.
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
PHIL WILLMOTT’S STAGING IS AN INTERESTING TWIST ON SHAKESPEARE’S TRAGEDY
There’s a subtly different tenderness between mother and daughter, which Willmott emphasises at the outset by having the queen and Cordelia play the piano together in a scene of domestic harmony. The duet becomes a little leitmotif in the staging – Lear also plays “Chopsticks” with the Fool, and near the end, when Cordelia is restored to her mother, she plays the piano to confirm her identity in the queen’s now wandering mind. The savage rejection of Cordelia feels particularly brutal, coming from a mother’s mouth, and the curse of sterility flashed at Goneril acquires an even crueller sting coming from a mother to the daughter she has borne.
URSULA MOHAN GIVES A TREMENDOUS PERFORMANCE AS THE TITLE CHARACTER.
Even those who know King Lear inside out will have their eyes opened and might find themselves reconsidering the character entirely. The change promoted me to adjust my levels of sympathy and concern for Lear.
WEST END FRAME
A good Gloucester (Richard Derrington) and fine Edgar (Tom McCarron) make their journey moving, while Rikki Lawton creates a cheeky, cynical, sexy Edmund. It is certainly a production that has insights to offer
Rikki Lawton gives the best performance as the manipulative Edmund, bastard son of Gloucester determined to win the power and prestige he has been denied. In fact the subplot of Gloucester and his sons, destroyed by the whims of their royal masters, has always been the most nuanced and affecting part of this play, and is here portrayed with real anguish by Tom McCarron as Edgar and Richard Derrington as Gloucester, who both exhibit considerable range.
A CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE SHAKESPEARE IN A COMPLETELY NEW WAY.
the Union has produced an exciting and innovative version of this epic power struggle between generations, and regardless of the gender of the protagonist, given a new momentum to the staging of this classic play.
Mohan poignantly conveys her character’s flickering sanity, suggesting that her emotional volatility is distressing to her as well as to those around her.
What is exciting about this production, however, is the way director Phil Willmott has staged it.
This is not Shakespeare played at a lofty distance on a stage, but immediate and engaging. You become part of Lear’s retinue, so despised by his eldest daughters, always present and observing the political fall-out of Lear’s abdication.
Let your curiosity take you to the Union Theatre, Willmott’s Lear is definitely something to see this June.
BARGAIN THEATRE LAND
Though some may rail against the casting of Lear
The fact is that it detracts nothing from the power of the tragedy and adds new perspective to the play's themes.
Lear: Ursula Mohan.
Goneril: Claire Jeater.
Regan: Felicity Duncan..
Cordelia: Daisy Ward.
Fool: Joseph Taylor.
Doctor: Simon Purse.
Gloucester: Richard Derrington.
Edmund: Rikki Lawton.
Edgar: Tom McCarron.
The Duke of Cornwall: Stephen Harris.
The Duke of Albany: John Rayment.
The Prince of Burgundy/Oswald: Riley Madincea.
The Prince of France: Alexander Morelli.
Director: Phil Willmott.
Designer: Phil Lindley.
Lighting: Josh Phard.
Assistant director: John Sandberg.
THE UNION THEATRE
204 UNION STREET, LONDON SE1 0LX BOX OFFICE: 020 7261 98764th - 28th June 2014
Tuesday - Saturday at 7.30pm
Saturdays (From Saturday 14th June) & Sunday at 2.30pm
Tickets: £17 / £15 Concessions
Burgundy / oswald
Phil Willmott's vibrant new production of Shakespeare's masterpiece, KING LEAR, puts a mother at the heart of the action supposing that it is a queen who, weary of public office, divides the kingdom amongst her daughters.
But the old woman finds it impossible to retire gracefully and as her mental faculties begin to fail she's cast out by her eldest children, as their sister prepares to lead a French invasion in retaliation.
Meanwhile the Duke of Gloucester's equally ruthless son plots to steal his brothers inheritance and the younger generations align in a savage plot to mercilessly destroy their parents. But will they succeed?
An epic double family drama about mothers and daughters, fathers and sons.
Reuniting the director Phil Willmott with regular collaborator, the actress Ursula Mohan in the title role, Lear's Widow is the latest in a series of vivid and fast moving Shakespeare productions that have become a popular staple of The Union Theatre's repertoire.
Past productions have included the modern world premiere of Shakespeare's Double Falsehood which transfered to the Charing Cross Theatre, the disputed comedy Fair Em, the neglected King John and the problematic Measure for Measure.
Phil Willmott's other Shakespeare productions include Much Ado about Nothing at Liverpool Playhouse, A Winter's Tale at the Courtyard, Measure for Measure at the Riverside Studios, Titus Andronicus at BAC and a Midsummer Nights Dream in Dubai.
Ursula Mohan (LEAR) was a member of Peter Brook's RSC company and played Emilia with Robert Stephens as Othello, Maria in Twelfth Night with Max Wall as Malvolio, Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Rosalind in As You like it, First Witch in Charles Marowitz’s version of Macbeth, Gertrude in Hamlet, Nurse in Romeo and Juliet and most recently Nurse in Medea, The Mother in Blood Wedding, Grandma in Petite Rouge, Mrs Telfer & Trafalgar Gower in Trelawney of the "Wells", Storyteller in Jason and the Argonauts, Chorus Leader in Children of Hecuba, Boson Meg in Treasure Island, and Paulina in The Winter’s Tale all directed by Phil Willmott.
Cast Includes: Richard Derrington, Felicity Duncan, Stephen Harakis, Claire Jeater, Rikki Lawton, Riley Madincea, Tom Mccarron, Ursula Mohan, Alexander Morelli, Simon Purse, John Rayment, Joseph Taylor & Daisy Ward