Tears of a clown in Rendlesham Forest

PUBLISHED: 01:54 24 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:39 20 February 2013

Tears of a clown in Rendlesham Forest

Tears of a clown in Rendlesham Forest

After the comic antics of last year's Twelfth Night, Red Rose Chain are looking to introduce some high drama into their annual Theatre In The Forest experience. Andrew Clarke spoke to director Joanna Carrick

After the comic antics of last years Twelfth Night, Red Rose Chain are looking to introduce some high drama into their annual Theatre In The Forest experience. Andrew Clarke spoke to director Joanna Carrick

With the wind in the trees, the creaking of the branches, the scent of pine needles and the atmosphere provided by the trees enveloping the natural performance space, Joanna Carrick is confident that the setting is perfect for this summers production of

King Lear.

Red Rose Chains Theatre in the Forest has become a mainstay of Suffolks cultural calendar and after romps such as Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Nights Dream and The Winters Tale they are returning to dramatic territory with one of Shakespeares great tragedies.

King Lear is the story of a foolish and vain monarch, who, towards the end of his reign, is flattered by the overtures of two or his three daughters with tragic consequences.

Having played Hamlet and Macbeth in the forest, Jo said that audiences will be treated to a fabulous story of human frailty and vanity. Despite the tragedy inherent in the tale, she said that Lear is full of entertaining high drama and is a very physical, atmospheric play which is well suited to an outdoor setting.

In a surprising move which should give the production a dynamic edge Jo has cast 26-year-old Edward Day as Lear.

Lear is usually the preserve of experienced older actors but Jo is convinced that a younger performer can bring out other elements in the character which should provide the outdoor production with added energy.

She said: "Its an epic story, a big large-scale fairytale. Youve got princesses and the fool theres so much excitement as well as action and battles and its very, very funny. People often overlook that. Its got some wonderful one-liners."

She said that she is planning to direct the play in a very engaging and very physical way. "I think Edward Day is a comic genius. We did Twelfth Night together last year and he played Bottom amazingly well the year before. I think he took Malvolio to new heights last year particularly the yellow stockings routine with him singing Mellow Yellow but he is an amazingly physical actor doing backflips and somersaults and he became a bit legendary with audiences.

"He is so brilliant at invoking character. I think he will be fantastic at playing age, which is really playing experience, and showing it through the physicality. Rendlesham is a very big auditorium and therefore the performance style has to be very bold."

Ed is currently studying at the Lecoq school in Paris and Jo says: "He is an amazing clown in the true sense of the word he can turn hilarity into tragedy in the space of a breath."

Jo said that in the conversations she had with Ed before she cast him, Ed assumed he would be playing The Fool but when he started reading the script it became clear that the real clown is Lear.

Then as Jo started planning out how she was going to stage the play, she hit upon the idea of combining both the role of Lear and The Fool into one persona.

"People would imagine that The Fool is the obvious clown but The Fool isnt particularly funny in Lear. But, Ed does, sort of, play The Fool as well because The Fool is going to be a puppet and it is operated by Lear. It becomes a voice in his head. The Fool is a manifestation of his psyche.

"At the beginning, Lear is this tyrannical leader and he talks through this puppet because there is no one he can talk to, no-one who will answer him back. The Fool comments on Lear and what Lears doing, so it quickly becomes clear that the puppet is the voice in his head."

The puppet is being made for the production by actor, director and puppeteer Jimmy Grimes who has had a long history with Red Rose Chain, appearing many productions and films over the years.

Jo said: "The whole thing hangs together as a concept. What I am completely sure about is that King Lear is a very funny play and the first half of it, particularly, has got loads of comedy and farce in it. The daughters are hilarious but then the play turns and the tragedy is deep and epic but I have always been of the opinion as a director that the funnier you can make things, then the sadder they become in the end."

Jo said that her ambition with the play is to make fun and entertaining. She points out that even in Shakespeares darkest tragedies there is comic relief. "This is exactly like life. Even on your worst day you will find something to make you smile.

"Its really important to me that our audience is entertained and engaged. I dont mean that in a glib sense but I dont want an audience to be sitting there nodding sagely thinking I am really bored but I am pretending to enjoy this because it makes me look sophisticated thats not what I am after."

She said the wide open arena encourages a bold, physical performance. "Day one of rehearsals I always say to my actors: imagine your audience doesnt speak English and put it over so they understand it. Its about the physicality of a performance but its also about playing with it, putting across the breadth and the complexity of the emotions and thats great because Shakespeare works on lots of levels.

"You dont need to understand every single word in order to enjoy the play. For me understanding Shakespeare is not a cerebral process. Its a play written to be performed not to be studied."


King Lear by Red Rose Chain,
directed by Joanna Carrick, will be
staged at Rendlesham Forest from
July 24 - August 26.

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