Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Inspired by the Shakespeare400 celebrations, Ronnie Dorsey has created a backstory for one of his masterpieces, King Lear, and placed that story centre‐stage. In Dorsey’s reimagining and reframing of the classic story, Everilda has been isolated and imprisoned and is heavily pregnant with a child – a potential heir she fears is too big for her to bear.
So often new writing seems to be the province of the young at the Fringe with the terms ‘emerging’ and ‘young’ invariably linked… but Ronnie Dorsey demonstrates that new writing can emerge at any age, it’s more about the new than the young and that emerging brings different voices and perspectives from an older writer.
Dorsey is a septuagenarian poet and playwright with a number of Edinburgh successes in recent years, all focussing on women’s voices and stories. This new play imagines an unknown Queen for Lear. Shakespeare’s play does not make a single reference to Lear’s queen and the mother – or mothers – of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, let alone give her any stage time or dialogue.
The young queen, Everilda (Alice Allemano) has been isolated and imprisoned and is heavily pregnant with a child – a potential heir she fears is too big for her to bear. As her trusted confidantes – her lady-in-waiting Ursula (Jane Goddard) and physician/friar Laurence (Mary McCusker) – tend to her through her delirium, Everilda reveals a different, female, perspective on one of the world’s most famous stories.
The play explores power and world of men from the perspective of the women and as such, is more than just a story of an imagined queen but relevant to the world of women through the ages. Everlastingly puzzled at the need for war and politics.
The writing is poetic and lyrical and provides three wonderful parts for women. The trio are confined in a simple space suggested by rough benches and a wall hanging where they await the birth of a prince – the boy to follow the three daughters that Lear already has by a previous wife. They reminisce about Everilda’s first meeting with the King at only sixteen as well as life at court. We glimpse a young Lear and realise that we have only ever thought of him as old, difficult, demanding and ultimately mad.
The performances are excellent with all three firmly in control of the poetic text and delivering it in a comfortable naturalistic way.
It is a small stage with a trio of rough benches that could risk making the play very static but director Mark Leipacher makes good use of the available area and levels to create the spaces of the story.
It is occasionally a little too wordy with moments where characters tell each other things they already know ‘do you remember…’ which feel a little awkward and could probably be polished but this is to pick holes in an otherwise very polished piece of writing.
It is a must for those with a love of exploring Shakespeare; the stories and the language and an interest in seeing the different perspectives that women bring to those stories.