Actors From the London Stage perform ‘King Lear’ on campus

King Lear

The UTSA community enjoyed the privilege of hosting the world-renowned traveling acting company Actors From the London Stage throughout the second week of October. Actors From the London Stage is an educational acting company that emphasizes realistic presentations of Shakespearean productions. The company visited over 20 classes at UTSA and performed the two-act tragedy King Lear to full capacity crowds at the UTSA Recital Hall on Oct. 7, 9 and 10.

In King Lear, Shakespeare weaves a tale of a British king who attempts to relinquish his kingdom to his three daughters as he nears his death. All that Lear asks from his daughters is for the trio to proclaim their fervent love to their father. Goneril and Regan, the two eldest daughters, waste no time in unabashedly announcing their shallow adoration for their father.

The youngest daughter, Cordelia, remains silent, explaining that mere words do not do justice in explaining her love for her father. Lear is furious, and denies Cordelia any inheritance. King Lear begins to second guess his demands once Goneril and Regan turn against him. As the plot develops, Lear begins to lose his mind as he discovers the daughter he renounced is the only one that truly loves him, setting up a highly emotional climax.

Actors From the London Stage are unique for their extraordinarily minimalistic presentation. Rather than relying on exorbitant props and lighting to convey themes and settings, the company uses little more than a few musical instruments and articles of clothing to assist in making the text come alive. The Actors From the London Stage company truly understand the power of Shakespeare’s writing and do a phenomenal job of illustrating his work.

There are only five actors in the Actors From the London Stage, yet they manage to play 14 different roles in King Lear. The actors use subtle changes in demeanor and stage position to signify the transition from one role to another. When the play begins, all actors are dressed in heather gray attire then don certain pieces of clothing to help characterize the role they are currently playing. For instance, one of the actors may hang a violet linen around their torso to signify their character’s position of royalty then remove it when they assume the role of a knight.

Freshman English major Kelsi McCarthy found the performance to be a refreshing break from modern theater, albeit a bit hard to follow. “I was able to follow the plot for the most part, however, since the actors were playing multiple roles it was often hard to distinguish one character from another. The lack of props was cool because it forced the audience to really focus on the dialogue. It was fun to use my imagination to picture the play’s setting, which helped create a personal experience.”

It is a distinct honor for UTSA to host such a prestigious company. The Actors From the London Stage have appeared in countless television, cinema and theatrical releases, ranging from the BBC to the Royal Exchange Theater in Manchester.

Their residency at UTSA was made possible through the generosity of theRussell Hill Rogers Fund for the Arts as well as sponsorship from The UTSA Friends of Shakespeare, The UTSA Department of English and The Yolanda and Robert Crittenden Shakespeare Endowment. Notable upcoming events from the Department of English include a reading from poet Alan Shapiro(Oct. 16, 7:30 p.m.: University Room, BB 2.06.04) and a film presentation on Gloria Anzaldúa by Paola Zaccaria (Oct. 21, location to be determined.)