A classically trained actress walks into a theatre and decides to play all of the characters in King Lear herself. Impossible, you say? It is possible and we’re bringing it to Chicago’s audiences at this year’s Stages, Sights & Sounds festival in May. It’s a performance that will change the way you think about Shakespeare.
In this rendition by Susanna Hamnett, the story is not only poignant and tragic, but also gentle, mischievous, and funny. Yes, you read that correctly. A Shakespearean tragedy is funny. Nearly Lear upends expectations of what a Shakespeare play should be and uses exuberant storytelling to take its audience into the heart of this great tale.
Hamnett, who studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in England, has distilled the play into the main conflict between Lear and his daughters and spits it out in an astonishing 70 minutes.
Hamnett’s rendering of Regan is a breathy diva, obsessed with her looks. Goneril is a twitchy, nervous schemer. And Lear himself is blustery and cocksure, until he isn’t.
As you watch the story unfold you forget completely you are watching one person.
Nearly Lear played in New York to rave reviews from the New York Times and recently received the Victor Award (for best performance) at the IPAY Showcase in Austin, TX.
While this Lear may not be a purist’s rendering, it reminds us all of why this play has flourished for centuries.
Josephine Louis Theater, Northwestern University, May 3 - 12, daytime and evening performances available.
Tags: Stages 2012, Shakespeare, Lear, solo, performance, theater, Susanna, Hamnett