The Shadow King – Theatre Review

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Malthouse Theatre, 11-27 October

From an idea conceived in Katherine between director Michael Kantor and director/actor Tom E Lewis, The Shadow King is a retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in rural Australia. Lewis plays Lear, the king of his family, who divides his land between the two daughters who claim to love him most and casts out the daughter who cannot express her love solely for material gain. Meanwhile, the bastard son from another family in the area returns with revenge on his mind. Kantor and Lewis have taken the story and given it new life and new language, with the actors skipping between English and various traditional languages. Like watching a more traditional performance of Shakespeare, I couldn’t understand every word or even every phrase, but it didn’t matter.  The story was clear.

The Shadow King was marvelous. Tragic, and awful but beautiful and poetic. The staging was ambitious, with a huge, moving structure that took on different meaning and places depending on the way it was twisted and turned. A large screen hung from the ceiling onto which were displayed film footage representing the different locations. The entire floor of the very large space was covered in red sand, and a band (Lear’s merry band)sat to one side and played throughout the performance.

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