Tag Archives: David Sayers

King Lear

King Lear

Jack Studio Theatre

King Lear

King Lear

Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 21st March 2019



“the Ed Miliband of Shakespeare: reliable, dependable, with the right words in the correct order but lacking that sense of purpose or timeliness”


I understand why people want to put on Shakespeare. It’s deep, people want to watch it, and it’s royalty free. What more could you want? But Shakespeare isn’t impressive like surgery is, it’s impressive like running a marathon is. Now, everyone has seen a marathon and if you want to make a statement you either need to do it exceptionally well, or you need to dress up as a Rhino and deliver your message.

And if putting on a Shakespeare isn’t like running a marathon, then it’s really like trying to be prime minister or a member of parliament. I want to know ‘why you?’ What does the version of Lear say different from the last? What extra insight do you have into our contemporary world? What do you believe in? This production of King Lear was the Ed Miliband of Shakespeare: reliable, dependable, with the right words in the correct order but lacking that sense of purpose or timeliness.

James Eley’s production at the impressive Jack Studio Theatre isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. The cuts to the script are sensible; the performances are credible, and the production tells the story. But this is all cone and no ice cream. It leaves an audience member wanting more and with their attention free to focus on minor defects of pace and accent. You will be sure you saw King Lear but not sure why.

Themes were suggested and hinted but never committed to. In the beginning, the play seemed to be set in a series of pubs with Lear and his daughters as landlords, and club owners waging a turf war. But then the ‘fool’ was more Commedia dell’arte, the fighting Tarantino and the soundtrack part classical and part brit pop. Edmund became Ada with lesbian relations, but nothing came of it. All good ideas but the question ‘why’ just swirls and swirls.

Lear isn’t a simple production, and between disguises and actors playing many parts, it’s easy to get lost. Our players did a reasonable job of telling the story and keeping it clear, although occasionally we got lost with some scenes delivered like the actors quickly needed to get to the end. The experience of Christopher Poke (Glouster) and Alan Booty (Lear) did shine as they slowed down and gave some timing to the scenes.

Ultimately this is not a bad show. Lear is long and challenging and complex and just getting through it is often enough as the text does so much. If you like Shakespeare then this is worth a shake. But if you’ve read King Lear, you know the rough story, and you’re looking for more then you might be disappointed. In the end, just like a politician, I would prefer a flawed play with something to say, rather than a polished production saying everything all at once.


Reviewed by William Nash

Photography courtesy Yard Players


King Lear

Jack Studio Theatre until 30th March


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Hobson’s Choice | ★★★★ | September 2018
Dracula | ★★★½ | October 2018
Radiant Vermin | ★★★★ | November 2018
Sweet Like Chocolate Boy | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Cinderella | ★★★ | December 2018
Gentleman Jack | ★★★★ | January 2019
Taro | ★★★½ | January 2019
As A Man Grows Younger | ★★★ | February 2019
Footfalls And Play | ★★★★★ | February 2019
The Silence Of Snow | ★★★ | March 2019


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This Story of Yours – 3 Stars


 This Story of Yours

White Bear Theatre

Reviewed –  12th January 2018


“Brian Merry gives a sincere impression of Johnson, a middle-aged, troubled, burned-out policeman”


Time and Tide Theatre Company present the 50th anniversary of John Hopkins’s first stage play, This Story of Yours. This harrowing three-act play charts the emotional collapse of Detective Sergeant Johnson and questions what working in law enforcement does to our souls. The play starts in a warm suburban living room filled with furniture. The setting works very well. There’s a sofa, drinks cabinet, lamp and record player, all reflecting a well put together middle-class household. 

A living room is typically the place where a couple would assemble for the night and maybe listen to an old record, Johnson and Maureen don’t even get to finish one whole song before an argument ensues. 

Actor Brian Merry gives a sincere impression of Johnson, a middle-aged, troubled, burned-out policeman. Having been exposed to sights of death and destruction for twenty years on the force, Johnson is on the edge of madness. Merry takes extraordinary care in considering every detail and gesture, from Johnson’s nervous ticks and twitches to his sudden bursts of energy. Emma Reade-Davies, who understated and so beautifully natural in her portrayal of Maureen, presents a wife worried her husband is hiding something from her.

During their toxic encounter it’s revealed that earlier on that night Johnson interviewed Baxter (David Sayers), a man suspected of abducting and murdering a young girl. Baxter got beneath Johnson’s skin and it ultimately ended in a brawl. Soon after confessing to his wife, Johnson is grilled by Chief Inspector Cartwright (William Hayes) who enters swaggering with a cigar ready to light. The stage opens up and the lights dim giving the impression of an interrogation cell, except there’s no need for a bright lamp to be focused on Johnson. He’s already frightened. After a few questions Cartwright, like Maureen, becomes alarmed by Johnson’s erratic and unstable behaviour.

The piece concludes with Act Three, a flashback of the incident, where the audience actually get to see what happened and the parallels between Johnson and Baxter. Is Johnson a man with sadistic impulses or was he at the end of his tether?

In all three acts, the pressures exerted on Johnson lead to violent outbursts of aggression. The fights staged by Toby Spearpoint, although authentic, leave the audience impatient rather than reeling in horror. Not much is left to our imagination. However, it should be said all the cast give starkly naturalistic and well-sustained performances.


Reviewed by Chloe Cordell

Photography by Lesley Cook Headshots


This Story of Yours

White Bear Theatre until 27th January



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