A Review of King Lear at the Globe Theatre, Southwark

by Trixie the Cat.

Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code…

It’s been TEN long years since Your Cat sloped up to the Globe in Southwark….

This was to see the great Michelle Terry play the Princess of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost….

Way back then, Michelle and Your Cat met at a supper given by the National Theatre’s brilliant Alexander Teacher, Sue Laurie….


We were both in agreement….

The Princess of France really is Queen Elizabeth!!!

(See: ‘The Princess of France is Queen Elizabeth’ )

Michelle is to take over the Artistic Directorship of the Globe Theatre in 2018…..

Great things will happen!

Your Cat has been an ardent supporter of the Globe….

And loved, particularly, Mark Rylance as Cleopatra….


BUT – and it’s a big but…….

……productions began to get coarse and cater for..

…..the groundlings ……

……American tourists, mostly, all too eager to be raucous and crude.

Poetry got lost in stage business….

Also the Volunteer Stewards could be overweeningly  bossy….

(Why are volunteers nearly always a pain in the neck?)

However, there was no question that Your Cat would see King Lear….

…starring Kevin McNally….

….who has won world-wide acclaim as Pirate Joshamee Gibbs in the Pirates of the Carribean films..

…..not that Your Cat has ever seen any of the films…..

….She’s far too much of a snob!

[She is, though, a big fan of Johnny Depp…..

….who sometimes drops into her local, the Old Bell in the Kilburn High Road….]

No! Your Cat has been a close follower of Kevin M. since he was a student at RADA…..

….and played a sublimely funny Young Marlowe in Stewart Trotter’s production there of She Stoops to Conquer….

To this day Your Cat remembers him twitching nervously every time Kate Hardcastle clicked her fan.

Now, such is Kevin M’s INTERNATIONAL fame, Your Cat could hardly get in to see the first night….

But the play IS going to be screened in cinemas up and down the land on Thursday, 21st September…..

So book for that if you can’t get into the Globe.

As for his Lear?



Kevin M. has thrown away all the traditional, monotone, delivery of the part from the past…..

Like Paul Scofield’s dire performance in Peter Book’s dire film….

Not a lot of laughs here…

Kevin M. has realised that the old King really IS…..

…more sinned against than sinning….

He is loved by his followers who are prepared to die for him….

…..Kent, the Fool, Cordelia, Edgar and Gloucester….

……and tell him to his face when he is being an old idiot.

His strength is also his weakness……

 He is a man of utter spontaneity!

His fault has been too much love for Cordelia (Anjana Vasan) – his youngest daughter – and not enough for his other two, Goneril and Regan, splendidly performed by  Emily Bruni and Sirinne Saba…..

This King Lear loves fun and jokes…..

Loves the company and banter of his fool (the highly musical Loren O’Dair)

And makes new friends with ease…..

The banished Kent, for example, incisively played by Saskia Reeves….


Kevin M. makes his King an everyman….

He’s EVERYONE’s old rascally father, used to getting his way…..

A bit like Old Steptoe…



The lesson that Lear has to learn is that two of his own daughters hate him in a way he has never hated anyone in his life.

And it breaks his heart.

He is a blunt old soldier, a man’s man, who has never quite got the hang of women….

Kevin M. is superb in the mad scenes where he takes the place of the Fool – even looks like the Fool –

and plays the crowd like a stand-up comic.

This really is…

…reason in madness….

…..Shakespeare’s satire on the corruption of late Elizabethan and Jacobean life.

Your Cat saw the first night and is confident Kevin M. will grow and grow to sublimity in the lyrical last scenes with Cordelia….

This is the most completely HUMAN Lear you will ever see.

And the production? Nancy Meckler has assembled an excellent cast all round – as articulate as they are ethnically diverse.

Burt Caesar made a wonderfully superstitious Gloucester….


A good, loyal man, he is entirely vulnerable to the machinations of his lying, bastard, son  Edmund – played as a cocky, Jack the Lad, by Ralph Davis….

….as is his legitimate son, Edgar – played by Joshua James as a nice-but-dim, camp, aristocrat.

The cast bangs drums during the action which creates wonderful effects for the storm scene and battle. 

But what an uncompromising play this is!

Shakespeare goes right against his sources and has the Baddies win.

It is The Shakespeare Codes belief that the Bard was going through a period of dark despair when he wrote the play.

He had been cast out by his patron and lover of fifteen years, the Earl of Southampton….


….after the birth of his son in 1605…..

….just as Lear in the play is cast out.

See: ‘Sonnet 126 Decoded’

The characters in the play think that things are so bad, the world must be coming to an end….

…..as people did in the last, dark years of Queen Elizabeth.

The play shows it just needs a handful of evil people to seize power to make everyone’s life a misery.

But those evil people will finally turn against each other and destroy themselves.

And everywhere there are shown to be ordinary, decent people willing to come out of the shadows to help….

…..even at risk to their own lives.

In fact the play and this production – and Kevin M’s towering performance – prove the truth of Philip Larkin’s great line:

What will survive us is love….

‘Bye now…


Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code might also like:
The Background to ‘Lear’ and the Original Ending.


……informing her that the Reading Room was to be renamed….

The Tom Stoppard Reading Room…….

……in honour of it’s President for the last fifteen years……

…..Sir Tom……

Culture can sink no lower…..

But Your Cat has a cunning ploy…..

The Comedy Theatre…….

…. was quite recently re-named The Harold Pinter Theatre.

….in honour of Sir Harold…

In what was probably Sir Tom’s only true moment of wit, he said to Pinter:

Couldn’t you have changed your name to Harold Comedy?

In the same way I suggest Sir Tom change his name to ….

Reading Room

That way everything can be left exactly as it is….

‘Bye now…


Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

If you would like to read Trixie the Cat’s review of the new movie Dunkirk…..

…..on our dazzling new sister blog, The View from the Hill….

Please click:



Over on our sister blog, ‘The View from the Hill’


…..is the obituary Stewart Trotter wrote in The Guardian for his dear friend, D. A. N. Jones….

…..the novelist and critic – who tragically died in a house fire fifteen years ago.

More memories of ‘Jonesy’ will follow….

R. I. P.


Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code

If you LOVE William Shakespeare…..

…….the odds are you will LOVE Jane Austen as well!

On our sister blog, The View from the Hill…..


…has just posted Teacher’s Pet….

….a review of D.D. Devlin’s Jane Austen and Education….

….which The Code’s Chief Agent, Stewart Trotter, penned for Ian Hamilton…..

…..who published it in The New Review….


Stewart believes that Mansfield Park is one of the greatest novels ever written….

….and its heroine, Fanny Price, one of the most mis-understood characters in fiction!

Here’s Billie Piper in the role……


Read how the part SHOULD have been played by clicking:


Here at The Shakespeare Code we are preparing for something amazing……

Your Cat will REVEAL ALL soon!

‘Bye, now….

Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

It is with the greatest of pride that Trixie the Cat…..

…..and I…..

…..announce the creation of a SISTER BLOG to The Shakespeare Code…..




But why The View from the Hill?

Well, I’m at that stage in life when I’m certainly at the top of the hill on life’s journey…..

…..if not over it.

But the advantage is that you can look back on your life and onward to the life to come.

……will feature articles for newspapers and magazines I have written in the past – and reviews of current plays and books.

It will also feature reminiscences and observations.

And I plan to be as truthful as the laws of libel will allow me to be.

‘The Hill’ is also my beloved Maida Hill – where I have lived for nearly forty years.

For a long time I thought I lived in Maida Vale.

It took an American – the late great Dan Crawford, who ran the King’s Head Theatre in Islington…..

….to tell me otherwise.

But as the ‘Vale’ and the ‘Hill’ are both virtual anyway, the difference is academic….

….something I swear this blog will NEVER be!

When she is not too busy working at The Shakespeare Code offices, Trixie  the Cat will contribute pieces to The Hill.

Readers might like to start with Ruling Poses……

…..a review I wrote of the SCANDALOUS memoirs of Tom Driberg…..

….for the BBC’s The Listener

IN 1977!!!!


It’s best to read ‘Why did Shakespeare write All’s Well that Ends Well?’ 

Part One 


Part Two


Samuel Johnson wrote:

Parolles is a boaster and a coward, such as has always been the sport of the stage, but perhaps never raised more laughter or contempt than in the hands of Shakespeare.

Parolles – design by Osbert Lancaster.


Parolles has many of the lineaments of Falstaff and seems to be the character which Shakespeare delighted to draw, a fellow that has more of wit than virtue.

It is The Shakespeare Code’s belief that Parolles featured in the original Love’s Labour’s Won and has been re-written in All’s Well to make him darker and more loathsome.

He is sometimes similar to the braggart Spaniard, Armado, in Love’s Labour’s Lost…..

………who started off life as a satire on Sir Walter Raleigh…..

…….and even uses some of the same words and phrases.

But is the Parolles of All’s Well a satire as well?

The Code believes he is.

First of all, he is a satire on a ‘type’.

Harry Southampton had a taste for lower class young men, just as his mother had.

In his famous ‘They that have power to hurt’ Sonnet (94) Shakespeare warns Harry of the political, moral and sexual consequences of mixing with – and making love to – men outside his class.

It is better to masturbate than go to bed with a pleb!

The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,

Though to itself it only live and die

But if that flower with base infection meet

The basest weed outbraves his dignity.

‘Base infection’ here means both moral contamination and the very real chance of contracting venereal disease.

The final couplet graphically nails this idea home:

For sweetest things [!] turn sourest by their deeds;

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Parolles contaminates Bertram.

Old Lafew describes him as…..

a snipt-taffeta fellow whose villanous saffron would have made all the unbaked and doughy youth of a nation in his colour

By the time Shakespeare came to write All’s Well, he had a real Captain in mind – Piers Edmondes.

A manuscript in the Marquis of Salisbury’s collection states:

Captain Piers Edmondes was also known to the Earl of Essex: he was so favoured as he often rode in a coach with him, and was wholly of his charges maintained, being a man of base birth in St. Clement’s Parish.

The Earl of Essex pursued a secret gay life from his own private bath house on the Strand…..

The Earl of Essex’s bath house in the Strand. It is said to still exist!

For a man to ride in a coach at the time was considered the height of effeminacy: for two men to ride together was an act of gross indecency. A….


…..according to Francis Bacon’s mother, was a synonym for a…..


During the trial of Essex and Southampton after the Rebellion a letter was produced from William Reynolds (probably brother of Essex’s secretary, Edward) in which he…

marvelled what had become of Piers Edmondes, the Earl of Essex’s man, born in the Strand near me, who had many preferements by the Earl. His villainy I have often complained of. He was Corporal General of the Horse in Ireland under the Earl of Southampton. He ate and drank at his table and lay in his tent. The Earl of Southampton gave him a horse which Edmunds refused a hundred marks for him, the Earl of Southampton would cole and huge [embrace and hug] him in his arms and play wantonly with him. This Piers began to fawn and flatter me in Ireland, offering me great courtesy, telling me what pay, graces and gifts the Earls bestowed upon him, thereby seeming to move and animate me to desire and look for the like favour.

Just after the Rebellion, Edmondes himself had written to a Mr. Wade, explaining that….

….he had spent 20 years in the Queen’s service and when his old hurts received in that service burst out afresh, he was enforced to come to London for remedy but two days before that dismal day [the Rebellion] by which mischance, being among his Lordship’s people innocently, he stands in the like danger they do.

Hugging and kissing Harry to get presents from him, fawning and flattering Reynoldes to recruit him as a rent boy, sucking up to the two Earls for cash and favours and explaining to Wade that he may have been physically present at the Essex Rebellion but was NOT part of it, is pure, pure Parolles.

Simply the thing he was made Edmondes live…..

Two Academic Footnotes:

(1) Samuel Taylor Coleridge…..

……loved the character of Helena but was disturbed that she told a lie when she said to the widow:

His face I know not.

This was not a lie – it was an equivocation!

The word…..


…….for the Elizabethans and Jacobeans could mean the genital area.

As King Lear says at the height of his madness and sexual disgust…..

Behold yon simpering dame whose face between her forks presages snow….

And as Shakespeare says in his own voice in Sonnet 94, in praise of chaste people who do not sleep around:

They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces

And husband nature’s riches from expense [seminal emission]

They are the lords and owners of their faces

Others but stewards of the excellence.

So, as Helena had not yet been to bed with her husband at that point in the play, she was telling ‘the truth’!

(2) The Shakespeare Code has established that the text of All’s Well has NINE words or phrases that Shakespeare never uses again – but which Thomas Nashe does……

…..once, twice and even three times!

See: Thomas Nashe was Shakespeare’s collaborator on ‘All’s Well that Ends Well.’

Thomas Nashe died in 1601 – which means that parts of the All’s Well text MUST have been written before that date.

This is further proof that All’s Well that Ends Well was originally entitled Love’s Labour’s Won…..

….and was first performed in Titchfield, at Christmas, in 1592.