The Bodleian Library quad is a beautiful setting for a play.
It is in the English Gothic style, rising to three floors with the doors to the various teaching rooms around the sides. In the summer sun the stone seems to glow and it is a real sun trap, sometimes almost too hot to bear until the shade rolls slowly around the quad. It is one of my favourite places in Oxford so the chance to watch a bit of Shakespeare there is a real treat.
The production this year was wonderful (as they have all been so far). A cast of 8 actors played all the parts, which led to some amusement when the actor playing Edmund had to skip across the stage and don a hat to play the servant Oswald. The 'name' this year was Joseph Marcell who played Geoffrey the butler in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It was the first time I'd sat in the audience waiting for the play to start humming the theme tune to a 1990s American sit-com!
He gave a powerful, moving performance, switching effortlessly from calm gravitas to howling anger. His portrayal of Lear's madness was truly moving and it was deathly quiet when he entered at the end of the play carrying Cordelia's body.
There was the usual mix of music and singing which is a feature of the summer plays in the Bodleian quad. In the case of Lear it helped to lighten the mood at the end of the play when we were all feeling a bit emotionally drained.
All the actors put on fine performances but Bethan Cullinane as Cordelia and the Fool ably handled two contrasting characters, Alex Mugnaioni was superb as Edgar and Daniel Pirrie as Edmund was very easy on the eye with a cheeky twinkle. I was also very impressed with the gravitas Bill Nash gave to the role of Kent.
A most enjoyable afternoon of 'kultcha' and I for one can't wait to learn what they're performing next year.