Assessing this range is likewise daunting. Whose decision to go one way over another can be held responsible: the actor? the director? the designer? The most successful will always be when the approaches of all three gel. The least will be when one has held out over another.
Some memorable performances occur to me: Geoffrey Rush, freshly returned from Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, in a simple and stark production of the Queensland Theatre Company with Warren Mitchell as the King; Emma Thompson in a facial makeup that looked like a Miro design, with a long leg, in what seemed to be another play from everyone else on stage; Sylvester McCoy who plumbed the depths of unhappiness in the role.
For the vast range on offer, I have never seen the possible doubling of the Fool with Cordelia: both are reported, depending on your take on Lear’s line in the final scene of the play, to have been hanged. (Discussions on this may lead to another blog entry…)
A number of the Fools have even managed to get laughs. Some use all sorts of tricks. Others just make the lines work. A few rely on gestures to magnify the text. Some, regrettably, look like Testiculo of Coarse Acting fame, ensuring Michael Green’s dictum is observed - that there should be more laughter on stage than in the audience.
It is, as I say, a hard task. I am just glad that I have never been asked to play it. Give me Lear any day.