"Our King Lear isn’t set in any period. We are a bunch of displaced people. We’re going to have the theatre closed up, barred to us. And we sort of invade the theatre, break into it, and perform our play. And I really like that, because it means that the only place it exists is the place of the play..."
As the dramatic world begins to take shape, Kevin takes us through what we can expect from the setting, music, and costumes.
Time: 4 minutes 5 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: Can you tell us a bit about the world of the production, of Nancy’s [Meckler, Director] production?
Kevin McNally: It isn’t set in any period but her idea is that it’s such its own world, and it’s so domestic, King Lear. Her idea is that we are a bunch of displaced people. We’re going to have the theatre closed up, barred to us. And we sort of invade the theatre, break into it almost, and perform our play. And I really like that, because it means that the only place it exists is the place of the play. You don’t have to know about another time period or another costume period. The only thing that’s important is the space and the performers who break into it to give you the play.
RK: That’s great. We’re two weeks into rehearsals now…
KM: A week and two days! Don’t rush me!
RK: A week and two days into the rehearsal and we’re sitting in the Music Room. Is there any music in this production?
KM: Yes. Music is integral to the play. We have a wonderful composer and we have some very talented performers who are musicians too. So we’re integrating musical ideas and motifs into the play, and everyone’s at liberty to provide a musical background. There was a wonderful moment today when Goneril comes in to berate her father and our Fool Loren O’Dair, who is a very accomplished violinist, started to play some rather sinister film music as she walked in which I thought was a lovely idea. It's very insulting to Goneril, of course, which fuels her anger.
So all of these elements I use to elucidate a play which although it is verbally quite challenging, its themes are really straightforward. So the more we can illuminate those through all of the tools that theatre gives you, I think the more enjoyable the production will be (and although it’s a tragedy I think it has to be an enjoyable experience to watch).
RK: I heard a little whisper in the rehearsal room that you might even be considering costumes at the moment already!
KM: Oh yes, we have. I spoke to Nancy and our designer about costume several months ago. It’s very good that it’s not set in stone and it’s ongoing. I think I know what I will be wearing now, but they have a great idea about people being sort of stripped down to a very neutral costume, because obviously a lot of the actors are playing more than one part, from which they can keep stripping down to it and building up and creating a new character with a new costume.
It’s very much my favourite style which is timeless, that you grab from whatever period you can. For me, there are a lot of things in Lear that are very difficult to make clear just via the words, parts of it are very obscure. So a lot of what I’m doing is to do with props and totems for various themes and costume will be part of that, particularly in the mad scenes. There are some ideas I have about how to use costume to enable [us] to chart his deteriorating mental health.
RK: Well I mean, we have the famous line of, ‘Off, off, you lendings’.
KM: Well exactly, yes! And also, ‘Here’s my gauntlet I shall, try it on a giant’. And that’s to me about trying to crush this imaginary mouse that turns into a bird. I hope at one point in that scene, Lear will have one boot and one glove on, which seems to me to be a lovely demonstration of somebody not in their full wits! So I’m going to try to, given Nancy’s style, try and use that sort of imagery as an aid to the text.
Thanks to Liz for the transcription of this interview.