Front Our Theatre Correspondent RISKING accusations of escap-11ism, one might say that this is no time foi Tragedy. However, if the Old Vic is to give us a tragedy, by all means let it be Olivier's King Lear (New Theatre). It is a tremendous performance.
Laurence Olivier has a range and subtlety of expression that has not been seen on the English stage for years. His Lear shows us the majesty of kjngship, the tenderness of fatherhood, the pathos of madness.
With his wonderfully flexible voice, he out-shouts the storm, twitters at his beloved Fool, whispers the maunderings of an unhinged brain and even contlives a little pathetic humour. Here is every aspect of the King brought low by selfish love.
There are many great moments. None will forget Mr. Olivier's heartrending " 0 let me not be mad," his agonising " Howl, 0 you men ol stone!" or his poignant crooning over the body of Cordelia, In this reading of the classical punishment for hubris we are spared nothing.
On the whole, the play is well cast. Pamela Browne and Margaret Leighton, as (ionerill and Regan. make an unlovely pair of " unnatural hags," the one a hooded cobra, the other a slinky, sensual cat. In the horrowingly realistic scene or dm blinding of Gloucester, Margaret Leighton's playing is the very nadir of diabolism. Alec Guineas' Fool and Peter Copley's Edmund, also arc outstanding.
The production, by Laurence Olivier, employs the cinenialie technique of the " fadeout " which, accompanied by Alan .Rawsthorne's music to establish the mood of the next scene, proves entirely effective. The settings are less effective—what is supposed to be " The British Camp near Dover " looks more like a dado for an L.C.C. nursery. But " the machinery with which they mimic the storm," particularly the forked lightning. even Lamb could not have described as " contemptible."
Lovers of Shakespeare at its best ate warned that the play finishes before Ch ristma s.
The Shepherd Shaw (Prince's) is tolerable enough fare for those who are prepared to languish between the appearances of Mr. Eddie Gray and not regret too much the disappearance of Miss Maureen Sim after her single graceful dance.