An evening spent with Queen Lear

“Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest”. – (Act I, Scene IV, King Lear by Shakespeare).

Well written words don’t wither with time, they stand testament to the truth that mankind has to confront, irrespective of when it was originally written or when it may eventually be read. Shakespeare has penned down several of these truisms, if you may call them so, in his plays.

What made me revisit these particular lines is the fact that I have just witnessed a modern day rendition of King Lear. When I say modern day rendition, I mean that the central theme remains the same but the setting is new and contemporary. What was also exciting about this version is that it was based on and efficiently carried through on the able shoulders of the lead character, who is a woman – Queen Lear.

Aptly titled, the play takes its audience through the later part of the life of Elizabeth Lear, the matriarch who was once powerful but lives her final days confronting reality and a turn of fate. It deals with powerful human emotions surrounding the illusion of power, the question of loyalty and the proof of love.
It raises questions about these topics in the minds of the audience taking them along in this journey depicting a crisis, both at a material level and at a consciousness level.

The high calibre of acting by each of the actors who portray the various roles in the play is truly commendable and so is the overall package of the play be it the light and sound design, the quality of the dialogues or the props included in the play.

Another strikingly good aspect of the play were the English surtitles that translated the Dutch dialogues. These surtitles managed to capture the gist of the dialogues to a T! Even though they were slightly inconvenient to follow considering the amount of eye movement involved in switching between them and the actual play, they acted as a good reference point to do quick checks to see if I have understood what is being said.

It was also a nice feeling to know that I could always refer to what is being said in the play in case I miss out on something and would not be left behind wondering if what I thought was said, was actually said. Overall the play and the arrangement with the surtitling is highly recommended. I personally found it to be quite an interesting experience to sit through a play in Dutch and having the calming feeling that comes with knowing that I could always refer to the English surtitles if need be.

I do however have my reservations about recommending the play to someone who has absolutely no understanding of the Dutch language. I think it would be a pity to concentrate on the surtitles more than the live performance happening on stage, especially when such good actors adorn the stage.

As I sum up my impressions of the play and reflect on what I take away from the entire experience, I am thankful for an evening very well spent!

Namratha Rao

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