King Lear, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Wednesday 17 August 2011
You could say it is the ultimate stand-up show: the Taiwanese actor and director Wu Hsing-Kuo plays all the characters in King Lear, fighting the elements in a huge white beard and taking a curtain call that even Donald Wolfit might have considered a little over the top.
Mr Wu is a legendary exponent of Peking Opera. His performance here was a revelation, even if the earth moved much more for him than it did for us.
His journey around the play comes in three parts – a costumed madman shouts in the wilderness; an astonishing Fool, toting his master's beard on a stick, precedes brilliantly executed compressions of Goneril, Regan, blind Gloucester and his sons; a ritualistic display of the actor's vocation in the face of despair, his own and King Lear's.
An Oriental tradition comes alive in the demands of our greatest play. The actor considers the challenges in a mosaic of deconstruction, and in the context of his own artistry.
It is a stunning performance, supported by nine musicians in the wings. As the late Ken Campbell used to say, solo shows are always better if there are more people in them.
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