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Queen Lear: May the farce be with you

★ ★ ★ Queer Lear meets Star Wars at the Maxim Gorki theatre. It's a lot to take in, and lots of fun.

Queen Lear at Maxim Gorki. Photo: Esra Rotthoff

This production once again shows that Shakespeare’s dramas are so enduring that they are – quite literally – universal and therefore endlessly malleable.

A lot of conceptual work has gone into this rendition of King Lear at the Maxim Gorki: the most immediately obvious move is gender reversal, with the consummate actor Corinna Harfouch playing the eponymous monarch who makes a cataclysmic mistake. But even if you missed the pre-curtain announcement hoping that “the force” will be with us punters in the crowd, it soon becomes clear that we are actually seeing Lear as Star Wars, with Harfouch in Darth Vader garb, Cordelia (Yanina Cerón) with Princess Leia hair and the rest of the cast in futuristic padded costumes that look like last winter’s jackets from Cos.

Half the action is live-filmed off and projected on stage, depicting the treachery of Prince Goneril (Tim Freudensprung), Renegade Regan (Emre Aksizoğlu) and Proud Boy Edmund (Aram Tafreshian), son of Bossy Gloster (Catherine Stoyan), on various planets and spaceships. Exiled sister Eddi (Svenja Liesau), upon encountering Lear after her raging scene on the heath, declares herself “an allegory of tranquillity” as she delivers a rambling, Berlin-accented stand-up monologue that has the audience in stitches.

Unfortunately, between the gender fluidity, Star Wars conceit, video projections and comedy routines, the production overreaches, spreading itself too thin to make any enduring impact despite fine performances. It feels like too much attention was lavished on the various conceptual strands and not enough in knitting them all together. That said, Queen Lear is a lot of fun to watch.

Apr 17, Maxim Gorki, Mitte (In German, with English surtitles)