King Lear

Fortune Theatre Studio, Dunedin

16/03/2018 - 17/03/2018

Dunedin Fringe 2018

Production Details

The tragic story of King Lear transported to a modern setting and performed with elements of live music and kapa haka helping to highlight the themes of whānau & loyalty. Brought to you by a first-time Fringe Festival group looking to encourage their community to explore contemporary issues through Shakespeare’s plays.

Runtime 1 hr

Ticket price range Koha, Koha ticket $3

Booking details

Theatre ,

1 hour

Dementia ward setting works well

Review by Mike Crowl 17th Mar 2018

With no programme and no indication of which group is presenting this show, it’s difficult to talk about specific actors, or to state who the Director is. The only clue is that this is ‘a first-time Fringe Festival group’.  The Te Aho Paiere group – made up of some of the younger actors – give us a short kapa haka about halfway through.

Before the show begins nearly a dozen actors, from teenage to middle age, gradually fill the stage. Plainly we’re in an old people’s home. In fact dementia is the illness for most of them. Various ‘staff’ wander around serving tea, and changing magazines and newspapers.

One of the staff speaks some rather elliptical lines from Shakespeare’s King Lear, and we’re off. The cast use a curious mixture of modern Kiwi and extracts from Shakespeare. For those who know the play, it’s fairly easy to discern who’s who, and what they’re about. I may be wrong, but I’m not so sure it would be as clear for those not familiar with the original.

Goneril and Regan, or Storm and Rain as they’re known in the Ward, work out a plan to become the inheritors of Kingi’s wealth (King Lear to you). A new nurse named Cord arrives, and somehow remembers the Shakespearian lines that ultimately encourage Kingi/Lear to sign his will. The plot goes ahead: Storm and Rain become the legatees, and Cord is cast out in the cold. K, a shy male nurse (aka Kent) makes occasional appearances, as do Gloucester and Edmund/Edgar.

The cast, particularly Kingi, Gloucester and the two daughters, play their roles with verve. Other actors double and triple roles, several of them endlessly busy tidying and cleaning and pottering around in the background.  

There are some patches when actors seem to be waiting for something to move forward, and awkward pauses ensue. Perhaps these issues will be tidied up in the next performance. The lighting is also a little random, with actors caught in shadows when they’re plainly not meant to be.

For me the play isn’t quite coherent enough, even though the translation of the original setting to the dementia ward with its modern day nurses works well. Still, full credit to any director who can keep eleven people on stage almost the entire time, and have them working so well as a team.  


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council