Shakespeare's play for today
Lear’s Daughters: Creation Theatre Company in front rooms everywhere
10 – 11 April
By Jon Lewis
The Care Home King a play for today
The banning of care home visits is for many families one of the most upsetting and traumatic impacts of the pandemic. In Lear’s Daughters, the latest in Creation Theatre Company’s rethought modern versions of Shakespeare’s plays, Lear (Gregory Cox) is a Captain Mainwaring figure living in a care home with a form of dementia which manifests itself in his belief that he is King of England. In Nicholas Osmond’s seventy minute live Zoom drama, the tragic elements seep through in everyday interactions such as Lear’s isolation from his daughters and in his forgotten memory that his youngest, and favourite, wayward daughter Cordelia, died several years earlier.
Lear’s two remaining, and lively, daughters, Goneril (Francesca Knight) and Regan (Josie Dunn) are overcoming their shared animosity generated by Goneril’s recent affair with Regan’s husband Edmund. Both are suburban professionals, with a similar sense of humour found in innuendo and sexual intrigues. We eavesdrop on the sisters’ gossipy Zoom conversations and group chats with their father. Like many individuals new to Zoom in the pandemic, Lear is unfamiliar with the mute/unmute button and in keeping in focus of his laptop’s camera. Luckily, Lear is cared for by the PPE-clad Gloucester (Andy Owens), whose visor perhaps alluding to the blindness he suffers in the original play.
The sisters have enough going on in their lives to want to look after their delusional father. The government’s covid rules that forbid interactions with care home residents offers them a way out of awkward family obligations. Osmond uses Lear’s dementia to bring in some of Shakespeare’s most affecting lines about madness, but Lear’s illness has a silver lining because he does not feel lonely. Indeed, Osmond, who also directs, includes scenes where the audience in gallery view, become Lear’s imagined retinue, his multiple imaginary friends.
The sisters have attractive, if slightly arch, personalities, and unlike in Shakespeare’s original, they are motivated to cause their father less pain. They humour him by pretending that Cordelia is unavailable for their group chat, unwilling to mention her death. Osmond has removed the bleak brutality and violence inherent in King Lear, creating an unexpectedly amusing feelgood, escapist lockdown drama instead.