By Carly Maga for The Star (Toronto), 28 November 2015
Written by William Shakespeare. Directed by Rod Carley. Until December 6 at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Avenue. KingLearProject.com or 416-504-7529.
King Lear is such a landmark play, it can sell out the country’s largest theatres and attract actors at the peak of storied careers — exactly like it did with the Stratford Festival’s production starring Colm Feore last year. David Fox, himself a king in Canadian theatre history, is a much more subtle Lear, but an intimate production at Theatre Passe Muraille lets you get up close to the madness.
In this famous story of generational battles and familial betrayals, 74-year-old Fox, known for roles in Road to Avonlea, The Farm Show and The Drawer Boy, plays that a Lear that is on the verge of madness from the very start of the play.
His unreasonable reaction to Cordelia’s unsentimental description of her love and duty to both him and her future husband doesn’t feel like a temper tantrum as much as it does an inexplicable 180-degree turn in judgment. His banishment of Cordelia is not out of rage, but a sudden and deliberate decision, which is just as chilling. And when reunited with his fool, a great partner in Hume Baugh, they’re both aware of what’s to come, already mourning the decline of a once-great king’s mind.