King Lear is the ultimate Shakespeare

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Having previously tackled The Scottish Play and Hamlet, local gay director Kevin Bennett is setting his sights on what he calls the ultimate Shakespeare.

King LearKing Lear is my favourite Shakespeare play.  It has such a vast story complete with familial and political drama, war and violence … all things that I love,” he laughed.

For all the vastness of the play though Bennett finds himself back inside the tiny confines of Commercial Drive’s Havana Theatre, the same place he found success with his Hamlet last year.

“There are a lot of other indie theatres but I love the challenge of [Havana],” acknowledged Bennett.  “It has a gritty energy that I find exciting.”

The Havana choice also has to do with Bennett’s fascination with the Globe Theatre and its 1997 reconstruction in London.  While certainly bigger and grander than the Havana, the Globe is still a small 30 meters in diameter with the original holding up to 3,000 spectators crammed in together across its three stories.  The Havana, says Bennett, has that same kind of intimacy that would have existed when Shakespeare’s plays were originally presented.

“That intimacy is really exciting to me,” said Bennett.  “I like the challenge of working in the Havana because it is such a quirky awkward space.  It is definitely a challenge for the actors but from day one I’ve worked with them to embrace it and in letting them find out how exciting that intimacy can really be”.

As with his critically-acclaimed Hamlet in 2010, which landed the number four spot on our best theatre list that year, Bennett enlists the help of composer and musician Benjamin Elliott, who once again creates original music for this production.

“Again I am heavily influenced by the Globe,” he explained.  “The Globe didn’t have lights to help set the mood for the stories and sound is really important to this story”.

Bennett is also playing with gender in this production, casting Julie McIsaac in the role of Edgar, but admits there is no real exploration of gender or any specific conceptual thought in that decision.

“It came out of me working with Julie last year”, he said.  “With the quality that she brought to Ophelia I thought it would be a really interesting challenge for her.”

As he gets ready to put another notch on his belt having now directed a trio of arguably Shakespeare’s meatiest plays, Bennett says he isn’t sure where he is headed next.

“I’m interested in perhaps a lesser known one, I don’t know,” he admitted.  “It seems to come to me once the show opens.  I suspect I’ll discover what it might be in the next month.”

Whatever his choice though, there’s a good chance we’ll find him back at the Havana.

King Lear
Havana Theatre
23 February – 17 March 2012

This unique production of KING LEAR will take audiences on a journey to the brink of madness. The vast landscape of Lear is condensed into the tiny space of the Havana. This is total immersion in an epic. Performers are never more than a couple feet from audience members, producing an experience as intimate as breath. This is full-contact Shakespeare, eye-to-eye and tactile. Visit for more information.

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