Reviews round-up: Danny Sapani in King Lear 3.8★

  1. Almeida Theatre

At 53, Danny Sapani is a relatively young King Lear at London’s Almeida Theatre, but the critics liked him and Yaël Farber’s staging. Many compared this version favourably with Kenneth Branagh’s shortened King Lear from a few months ago, which was almost universally panned.

[Links to full reviews are included but a number are behind paywalls and may therefore not be accessible]

Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times (4★) sums it up thus: ‘a mighty production that fuses the sense of ritual so often central to the director’s work with a modern setting to create a shattering piece of theatre, led by a towering, beautifully shaped performance from Danny Sapani.’ Over at The Times (4★), Dominic Maxwell thought ‘The first half is not just one of the best King Lears I’ve seen, but one of the best Shakespeares I’ve seen.’ He adds: ‘The last 90-odd minutes are…yes, pretty good.’ Susannah Clapp in The Observer (4★) compliments’Yaël Farber’s dark and swirling production’ in which ‘Danny Sapani’s Lear is commanding’.

For Arifa Akbar in The Guardian (4★) it is a ‘dark, doomy and epic production’. The Daily Telegraph‘s (4★) Claire Allfree calls it ‘a mighty, soul-pummelling evening’. and ends ‘This is a shattering, comfortless night’. This is a gripping piece of entertainment’ said Andrzej Lukowski in his Time Out (4★) review. Alexander Cohen at Broadway World (4★) likes Farber’s ‘razor-sharp focus on the text and the slimy political subterfuge bubbling beneath it.’ Dave Fargnoli’s review in The Stage (4★) concluded: ‘Unrelentingly grim as it is, Farber’s vision accurately reflects our compassionless times.’ Sarah Crompton at WhatsOnStage thought: ‘Each detail of the production feels meant and a terrific cast wrench sense from each fluctuation of character’ but she did find it a bit long.

Fiona Mountford in the i (3★) survived the storm unmoved: ‘Farber’s vision teems with ideas, but they do not lead us to a fresh understanding of Shakespeare’s most ferociously flawed play.’ The Evening Standard’s Nick Curtis (3★) reached this conclusion: ‘This is a strange, imperfect but intriguing take on Shakespeare’s play, in which Sapani triumphantly claims the central role.’

Sapani is the hit of the show, with high praise from The Guardian: ‘It is a supremely moving performance, among the most tragic King Lears I have seen.’ The Telegraph praised his ‘intelligently unshowy approach’. WhatsOn Stage says he is ‘a towering Lear, beautifully finding his way through the lines’.

There’s a lot of love for Clarke Peters too. The Stage thought he gave ‘a magnetic, scene-stealing performance’ and Broadway World said he is ‘mesmerisingly Beckett-like’. The Times enthused: ‘I’ve never seen a wiser, wittier counsel than Clarke Peters’ laconic fool.’

Much praise also for Merle Hanson’s set (‘creates an ambivalent atmosphere of strangeness, of beauty fashioned from the ugly, of violence brought into the domestic’ WhatsOnStage) and Peter Rice’s soundscape (‘arresting’ The Guardian).

King Lear is at the Almeida until 30 March. Buy tickets directly from the theatre.

Average rating 3.8★ 

Value Rating 66 (Value rating is achieved by dividing the Average review rating by the top price excluding premium prices)

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