Last week was pleasingly punctuated by two visits to the Sydney Opera House: one to the Drama Theatre for Bell Shakespeare’s King Lear, the other to the Opera Theatre to see Opera Australia’s Bliss. Both are fine productions.
Much has been made of the fact that John Bell, in the role of King Lear for the third time in his career, is nearing the age of the elderly king. Age, is of course, a central theme in Lear, and if Bell’s rich performance is anything to go by, the actor has reached a deep understanding of his character. Peter Carroll plays the bitter Fool, and his sprightly performance is impressive as he also nears 70. But the young ones deliver, too. Tim Walter’s Edmund is intense and cheeky, and Leah Purcell puts a playful twist on middle-sister Regan.
And leaping forward 400 years…
Bliss is the much-anticipated adaptation of Peter Carey’s 1981 novel. Advertising man, Harry Joy descends into a surreal and hellish existence after a close encounter with death. Redemption comes in the form of Honey Barbara, whore and healer; together they set out to conquer Hell and find a place of Bliss. Peter Coleman-Wright’s energetic performance is equalled only by Brett Dean’s dramatic and textured score. I thought the libretto, by Amanda Holden, truly captured the essence of the novel, and the third act brought vitality to Carey’s somewhat rambling conclusion. It’s a dynamic production with a bright future!