Last night I went to see Michael Pennington in King Lear by the Theatre for a New Audience at the Polonsky Shakespeare Centre in Brooklyn. There are good reviews in The New York Times and NY Daily Times.
As the reviews suggest, this is less high octane than some other recent productions. Some of that is undoubtedly due to the acting, but it is also related to the script. This version uses the Quarto text as its basis, as opposed to the Folio text or the conflated version that is usually the basis for modern editions. That said, some of the cuts made were those of the Folio. There are some crucial differences between these texts. In particular, scenes are cut; speeches and lines are in one or other text; the identity of the invading army changes; and lines are switched between actors.
You can read my paper on “The Geo-politics of King Lear: Territory, Land, Earth” – in Law and Literature (open access). That’s an early version of what I hope will be in the planned Shakespearean Territories book. This production rather underplayed the big ‘geopolitical’ elements of the text – the territorial division (the Quarto omits the crucial line ‘interest of territory, cares of state’), the invading army, internal warring factions – but was good on the more domestic elements, such as the land-inheritance issues at the heart of the Duke of Gloucester/Edgar/Edmund sub-plot. The production was more of a domestic tragedy, with a wider war going on in the background. The behaviour of Lear’s revenue at Goneril’s home almost made you sympathetic for her.
I’m going to see the Sam Mendes/Simon Russell Beale version in London in June. It will be interesting to compare these two productions.
Update: Steve Mentz has a nice piece on this production here, which especially praises the performances of Lear’s daughters.