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A strong King Lear


A strong King Lear

King Lear – Sverre Anker Ousdal

National theatre, Oslo, Norway.

Directed by Stein Winge. King Lear: Sverre Anker Ousdal

Review by Lisa Strindberg

OSLO: This “clash of Titans” – this meeting of royal Knights of 1.class (director and le ad) in Shakespeares greatest drama makes a memorable King Lear, most of all for the performance of Sverre Anker Ousdal as Lear. He convinces even where Shakespeares logic falls weak in our time. But this King Lear will also be remembered for the Stein Winges challenge of conventions, introducing lesbians and sadomasochism.

King Lear, 3rd act. Sverre Anker Ousdal (Lear), Jan Saelid (Edgar) and Haakon Ramstad(Kent) Foto: Lisa Strindberg

The story King Lear was written over 400 years ago and tells the story of a British king who chooses while still in power to split up his land among his three daughters. His reasoning is that, by disposing his land before his death, he will alleviate his heirs of dispute. His only condition is that each daughter gives him an oath of unconditional love. The youngest child, who loves her father the most, claims that her love for him is far too real and true to be expressed in words: consequently, she is then banished. The eldest two daughters, after swearing their loyal love for their father, the king, greedily take their inheritance only to betray him shortly thereafter. King Lear tragically ends his days in pain, sorrow and madness. The plot is action packed and filled with deceit, greed and lust.

With all its evilness there is also goodness to be found like loyalty among friends. There are moving scenes in the unconditional loyalty when Kent and Edgar risk their lives helping the king.

Albeit it does not have the tragic love of Romeo and Juliet, King Lear does have the tragic love between a father and a daughter. Like the former, it concerns fate and trust. On the darker side of this captivating drama there is desire, deceit, greed for power and cheatful sex.

Sverre Anker Ousdal

Sverre Anker Ousdal establishes the neccessary strength and authority of a powerful king at the opening of the play. Lears violent physical attack on his two deceitful daughters demonstrates a king who stepped down too early. A stupid act that his jester, the Fool, keeps reminding him of. Thus Lears deep fall vibrates against a greatness lost. Ousdal gives us a winding road into madness with plausible glimpse into reality. He uses his dynamic voice from angry shouts and authoritarian reasoning to desperate breathless exclamations and whispers.

Anker Ousdal has acted the lead in a number of plays by Shakespeare, Ibsen and Strindberg. He has multiple leading parts in Scandinavian and English films and television, and has won the highest norwegian filmprize, Amanda, twice. Like Stein Winge, Anker Ousdal is appointed Knight of 1. class of the St.Olav Order.

King Lear. . Ida Loken plays a lesbian, S-M oriented Regan, foto Lisa Strindberg

The power of silence

The drama is fast-paced, carefully cut and language-washed by the dramaturges Bibbi Moslet and Njaal Helge Mjos. Winge takes good care of unspoken text, the emotions in the silence. And this is why this ancient drama of a fight for power through deceit, greed, molesting and killing – still is a captivating and great experience. The actors are great. There is a magic scene when Lear admits to himself his shamefull and unjust treatment of his youngest daughter,

Cordelia,(Victoria Winge) and also a strong moment when Edgar (Jan Saelid) finds his blinded father, Gloucester (Nils Ole Oftebro), who banished him, and looks upon him with the warmest eyes of love.

In the dramatic finale where heroes and villains die successively. Winge gives falling walls, shocking bangs and smoke pouring off to highten the “final countdown” of the drama. The end is then “grounded” by Albany, officer for the king (Erik Hivju), who with quiet authority appoints Edgar the new king.

King Lear at the Nationaltheatre, Osl. Regi Stein Winge. n the centre Sverre Anker Ousdal in the titelrole. Foto: Nationalteatret, Oslo.

Lesbians and Sados in a “modern” world Edmund (Mads Ousdal), a son out of wedlock of Gloucester, one of the king’s supporters, can chill a neck when he declares his deceitful intentions. While Edmund has more than one dimension as a villain, the evil women in this play are written rather one-dimensional by Shakespeare. A challenge Heidi Goldman (Goneril) and Ida Loken (Regan) meet with a strong scenic energy, aided by director Winges affiliation for challenging effects. He has turned Regan into a sadomasochistic lesbian. Her “husband” Cromwell (Anneke von der Lippe), is an aggressively shrieking japanese woman who uses her red chopsticks to blind Gloucester. This gruesome scene is given strong, sexual overtones and sado effects when Loken relish in a taste of the one eye of Gloucester that she has dug out with her fingers.

The play is set in a contemporary world, not defined. A casual flare dominating the costumes.

A strong play – with a few “shortcomings” Having experienced Ingmar Bergmans King Lear with its dramatic red and black scenography at Dramaten in Stockholm some years ago, it is difficult for me to appreciate this low budget stage setting at Nationaltheatret. From what I could see, Solfrid Kjetså simply placed a number of doors, of different types from the 60´s to medieval style, against a black wall. The King´s costume lacks glory beneath his robe (baggy brown slacks and “slipper”-shoes) in the opening-scene when he shall establish a powerful king. Furthermore, it is confusing that the same actress (Victoria Winge) plays both Cordelia and the Kings Fool.

These details do not disturb the fact that King Lear at the Nationaltheatret with Sverre Anker Ousdal as the king is a strong drama. I was quite moved by the play. A memorable King Lear

King Lear, Sverre Anker Ousdal – Foto: Lisa Kristin Strindberg

The director Stein Winge (73) is one of the leading directors in this country. A challenging director of theatre and opera with a taste for madness and excess. But not necessarily so -. One of many exceptions from this inclination is when he last year staged Liv Ullmann in O`Neils Long day`s journey into night. With 200 productions on his list, Winge was recently appointed Knight of 1. class of the St.Olav Order by the king of Norway for his theater and opera productions. He has himself served as head of the Nationaltheatret and other theatres. In the 80-ties he directed six plays for Los Angeles theater Center. And last year he was nominated for an Emmy for acting in a television series. The first norwegian actor to experience such honour – and his first acting role in many, many years.

It’s all in the family

This production of King Lear is not only a meeting of great artists (“Titans”) at the Nationaltheatret in Oslo, it also has a touch of a “family-production”. Edmund is played by the son of Sverre Anker Ousdal, Mads Ousdal, a celebrated actor in his own right with film and television on his list in addition to theatre. This is not the case with the other family-member in this play. The director, Stein Winge, brings in his singer/songwriter daughter, Victoria Winge, to play the small role of Cordelia, the youngest daughter. This she does with a sweet, honest, childish tone. But also giving her the part of the kings Fool seems a mouthfulsuite big to swallow, besides the confusion it creates with one person playing both roles.

Stein Winge Regi
Solfrid Kjetså Scenografi og kostymedesign
Hans Petter Gundersen Musikk
Øyvind Wangensteen Lysdesign
Nina König Maskør
Njål Helge Mjøs Dramaturg
Oddvar Helland Kampinstruksjon
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