A daring reworking of Shakespeare’s magisterial tragedy focuses on a family of women dealing with the mental and moral disintegration of the head of the household. produced by Cygnet Theatre, Paris
Dates: 11, 12, 18, 19 March 2020
Venue: Théâtre de Verre, 12 Rue Henri Ribière, 75019 Paris
Early onset Alzheimer’s provides the context for Cygnet Theatre’s radical approach to its latest production of Lear. This adaptation takes William Shakespeare’s great tragedy King Lear - the story of a royal family on the brink of self-annihilation, and turns it on its head by recasting the elderly, domineering monarch as the matriarch of a powerful, noble family.
Director and Cygnet Theatre company member, Joshua Stretton is responsible for crafting this thoughtful departure from the classic presentation of this immense play, which deals with power struggles, the redistribution of wealth, psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, family discord and mental deterioration. He explains what motivated him to take on such a well-known play. “Age is at the heart of Lear. We all know we shall grow old; many of us hope to get there and, on the way, make peace with our ultimate end.
We are reimagining this moment occurring in the body of a younger woman faced with the dramatic acceleration of her end. Early onset Alzheimer’s can take hold in people as young as 30, with many symptoms emerging before the sufferer notices something is wrong. Our Lear faces a conscious end, with the years of her life stretching before her. The decision must be taken about what to do about the time that is left.”
The cast will be stripped-back to include eight performers with one actor performing the key roles of Cordelia and The Fool. Major characters and plot lines have been sacrificed, all in service to the themes at the heart of the story – family and loyalty. Stretton has been heavily influenced by the style of epic theatre, a technique associated with celebrated theatre practitioners Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht. “I intend to use epic theatre aesthetics to retain the structure and style of Shakespearean theatre, while allowing the actors to investigate the inner workings of their characters and present the complex play of emotions hidden in each scene,” says Stretton.
The production will be performed at the edgy Théâtre de Verre, a venue popular amongst the artistic community, in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Place des Fêtes in the 19tharrondisement, which offers affordable rehearsal and performance space, a rarity in Paris.
Cygnet Theatre was founded in 2019 by a group of enterprising international creatives who are dedicated to producing the highest quality classical theatre – in English– in Paris. Thanks to their successful summer productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing they have established themselves as the unofficial artists-in-residence at the Jardins des Arènes de Montmartre, an outdoor amphitheatre which lies just beneath the Basilica of Sacré Cœur.
Lear is the company’s first winter production and the first to be performed in a traditional theatre setting. However, this is not theatre aimed exclusively at the Anglophone community. Cygnet Theatre work is also intended to appeal to the French community. Although Lear will be presented in the original English, projected French surtitles will make the piece as accessible as possible.
Please contact www.cygnettheatreparis.com for tickets