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MIL OSI – Source: Massey University – Lear a King hit for local theatre-goers King Lear (Ralph Johnson) and his daughters Goneril (Hannah Pratt) and Regan (Cassandra Cleland), on opening night.

King Lear clings to his dying daughter Cordelia at the end of the play
This year’s Summer Shakespeare freak show rendition of King Lear in Palmerston North has been described as “clever and courageous.” Writing for the New Zealand Performing Arts Review and Directory website, John Ross complimented Jaime Dörner for his “clever and courageous directing.” He described the production, which several Massey University students are taking part in, as “one of the most successful recent Summer Shakespeares I’ve seen.” With three nights left in the season, Manawatū theatre lovers are being urged not to miss out, following packed audiences at last week’s three performances at the Victoria Esplanade Gardens. Theatre lecturer Associate Professor Angie Farrow, from the School of English and Media Studies – the main sponsor for Summer Shakespeare, says it is “probably the most ambitious of Summer Shakespeare productions I’ve seen. The metaphor of the freak show is beautifully sustained both in the visual design of the production and in the playing. “Costumes and prosthetics work together brilliantly to create characters from circus, and Jaime’s direction calls for physical, sometimes animal-like, performances from his actors that are high energy and hugely entertaining,” she says. Dr Farrow, who has been pivotal in organising the 13-year series of Summer Shakespeare plays in Palmerston North, says the standard of acting in King Lear is very high. “There is a good mix of emerging and established actors and Jaime has a way of bringing out the truth of the characters while maintaining their immediacy and theatricality,” she says. Reviewer John Ross concurs, commenting on how the production is “clever in its quirkiness.” “Sure, Lear is played as both a king and a circus ringmaster. Kent becomes a kind of maybe-Indian, or maybe Egyptian, servant clown; the Fool not one but three scampering-around clowns; Goneril a bearded lady; Regan a fairground vamp; Cordelia maybe a horse-back dancer; Albany a Strong Man … and others vaguely Edwardian circus functionaries, or patrons. “The effect oddly is to distance the action, to slide in some meta-theatrical game-playing, and to bring the play down to a manageable scale,” he writes. Dr Farrow says there are greater challenges in performing tragedy in an outdoor setting. “The gravity and depth of psychology needed is much easier to achieve in an indoor environment. Jaime [Dörner] compensates for this by creating an intense choreography and visual spectacle that enables even the youngest of audience members to follow.” Read the review by John Ross on the New Zealand Performing Arts Review and Directory website here. The production is Dörner’s final work as a director in Palmerston North. He is heading to Monash University in Melbourne to do a PhD on the cathartic and healing powers of theatre. Show details: Dates: March 12,13, and 14 Time: 7.30pm Entry: Free Where: Victoria Esplanade Gardens, Fitzherbert Avenue, Palmerston North
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