King Lear meets Waiting for Godot in challenging theatre piece as part of 2014 Edinburgh International Festival
This article is from 2014.
On New Year’s Eve, in a hotel lobby in Ostend, an ageing actor waits for the arrival of a director who will orchestrate his comeback in a production of King Lear. But will he come?
The night wears on, and Minetti (a towering performance by Peter Eyre) hectors, in turn, the other occupants of the lobby: the long-suffering hotel staff, a lonely woman (Sian Thomas) who spends each New Year with two bottles of champagne and a monkey mask. He holds forth about the role of the artist, brandishing newspaper clippings about the crisis which led to him losing his actor-director job 30 years before.
Is the hero of Thomas Bernhard’s 1976 play a havering old man, the string of his underpants trailing, or a kind of fool who speaks necessary truths about integrity in a world which seeks only entertainment?
Eyre’s nuanced performance and Tom Cairns’ subtle direction keep us guessing, but also make it hard for us to engage completely with him, in empathy or frustration. Cairns’ impressive 1970s hotel lobby set also distances the play from the present day.
Minetti’s circling repetitions and general sense of stasis means it’s closer to Beckett than Shakespeare. It’s not an easy piece to consume, but, as Minetti might say, are we prepared to put the work in, or do we just want to be entertained?
Royal Lyceum Theatre, August 16-18.