The Garage International, Adelaide Fringe Festival, North Adelaide Community Centre, 8 - 10 March 2012. Directed by Ira Seidenstein.
In The Invention of the Human, the great critic Harold Bloom opined that King Lear was unperformable, a work of such power and beauty that no production could ever hope to do it justice. I doubt The Garage International have read Bloom’s book. I’m not even convinced they’ve read Shakespeare’s play. The Madness of King Lear is a travesty, hopefully but probably not an elaborate joke. I could not bring myself to clap when the performers took their unwarranted curtain call. I felt, instead, like crying.
Described as ‘King Lear as you have never seen it before’, The Madness of King Lear sees actor Leofric Kingsford-Smith and dancer Shakti fuse Shakespeare’s words with an unpalatable cocktail of exotic and contemporary dance, playground psychology and a dire soundtrack which lurches from Latin-American to German metal. Shakespeare’s play is rendered almost unrecognisable – certainly incomprehensible – by unindicated shifts between characters, rampant and senseless mangling of the text and persistent misinterpretation.
All this is, in what is presumably intended to be an interesting twist on the Lear story, going on in the King’s disturbed mind rather than any world of the real. It’s a boring idea, ineptly executed, which does much to nullify the breathtaking cosmic scope of Shakespeare’s play. Director Ira Seidenstein is described in the play’s accompanying notes as ‘the fool’ and I can’t help but agree. One has to wonder, again, whether any of this is meant to be taken seriously. Certainly the high school students sitting next to me were having the time of their lives. I suspect this production will be enough to put them off King Lear – if not Shakespeare – permanently. For that alone, The Garage International should hang their heads in shame.