BWW Reviews: KING LEAR at Folger Theatre - London's Globe Theatre on Tour

By: Sep. 12, 2014
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Are you ready for a theatrical performance where the actors come out into the audience to chat before the play begins? (Did they realize one was talking to the dean of DC theater critics Peter Marks?) Where the 8 actors start the show with a lovely song and dance and end it with more music and dance (music by Alex Silverman and choreography by Georgina Lamb? Where musical instruments are played such as a trombone, guitar, accordion, drums, trumpet, cymbols, and flute? Where the actors seem to be having such a fun time with each other? Where the costume designer (Jonathan Fensom) uses dress that is mainly from the early 20th century yet includes a hat that could have been worn by singer Pharrell Williams and helmets are worn that reminded me of the film "The Mouse that Roared". Where two actors can be seen in the PBS series "Dowton Abbey" (Gwendolen Chatfield and Daniel Pirrie) and one actor played the British butler "Geoffrey" in the 1990's TV hit "The Fresh Prince of Bel -Air which starred Will Smith (Joseph Marcell).

Oh...did I mention the play KING LEAR is a tragedy by the great William Shakespeare? What an ensemble of actors the "Globe on Tour" brings to the Folger with each of seven actors playing multiple roles (they change into costumes at the rear of the stage) and only one, the superb Joseph Marcell, thankfully only plays Lear. It is a memorable performance. He is at times comedic, mad, filled with rage, and the end poignant and forgiving.

The Globe Theatre founded by American actor and director Sam Wanamaker and which opened in London in 1997 a reconstruction of the original theater on the original site. The Globe on Tour presentation of KING LEAR has played Turkey, Romania, Austria, Germany, and Denmark and at 18 venues all over England. The eight actors seem like there is a huge cast. Director Bill Buckhurst does a masterful job with a talented ensemble which imbues energy. They leave the house lights on to replicate the outdoor performances from London.

The cast includes Chatfield (Goneril/Curan), Bethan Cullinane (Cordelia/Fool), Marcel (King Lear), Alex Mugnaioni (Edgar/Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Burgundy), Bill Nash (Earl of Kent), Pirrie (Edmund/Oswald), Shanaya Rafaat (Regan) and John Stahl (Earl of Gloucester/Duke of Albany/Doctor) known for his work on the TV show "Game of Thrones".

You will witness some complicated sword fighting thanks to the work of Fight Director Kevin McCurdy.

You also get a chance to see how thunder is achieved thanks to a metal thunder sheet and wind machine easily viewed in the rear of the stage.

The story of KING LEAR is complex. Lear is getting old and proposes to give up his crown and to divide it equally to his three daughters. He is slowly growing mad (like King George III) and dementia is creeping in. Marcell is a Lear to remember. He is at times lovable and at other times despicable. The supporting cast is extremely talented. You will never forget these performances. Go for the language, go for the entertainment, go for the performances. You will not be disappointed.

KING LEAR runs until Sept. 21 at the Folger Theatre. For tickets call 202-547-7077 or visit Following the DC part of the tour, LEAR heads to Philadelphia (Sept. 24 -27), New York (Sept. 30 to Oct. 12), and Boston (Oct. 15 to 23). Visit


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