The Mad King of Bel-Air

joe-marcell-as-king-lear

“Aarrrrghghghghgghhg…arrrrrrrrghghghghgh” – King Lear

When I heard that Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey the Butler from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) was playing King Lear in the Globe’s travelling production, I was all like “Unnnncle Phiiiil!!!!” But then I calmed down, and bought tickets.

When my excitement settled, I started to get slightly apprehensive. King Lear is my favourite Shakespeare play and apparently the comedy was going to be brought out in this production. The comedy!? Out of King Lear!? I would be less surprised to hear that Sophie’s Choice: The Musical was coming to town. And as much as I love Mr. Marcell, I could fully imagine a performance he was in devolving into silliness. Also, the run-time had been cut down by a full hour… This was going to be a massacre.

How much the better then that the Globe’s performance swept all of my doubts away. It was at once riveting, terrifying, hilarious and impressive. Joseph Marcell cuts a fierce Lear, barrelling thunder out of his mouth towards his ‘ungrateful’ daughters. As the interval approaches and Lear is foisted into the wilderness, Marcell’s performance becomes all the better as he unleashes the absurd comedy that he is best known for. He is truly able to draw comedy out of the madness, and Buckhurst’s direction has him place emphasis on all the most ridiculous elements.

What demonstrates that this is a strong production is that the comedy doesn’t overbear and detract from the tragedy. If anything, it intensifies it; the abrupt shifts in tone leaving us on the back foot for when Marcell breaks down into a pitiable wreck.

The rest of the cast are all extremely competent, with Dickon Tyrell’s (isn’t that a Game of Thrones character?) portrayal of Kent shining out in particular. The only actor to not play multiple roles, since Kent himself is engaging in a double-act, Tyrell commands the stage with his bold northern accent.

Yes, I did say the only actor to not play multiple roles, because this ambitious production has 8 actors take on 18 roles. Due to the break-neck pace of this production (characters leap on stage whilst the previous scene isn’t even completely finished) the cast become a whirlwind of costumes. Along with the multi-purpose wooden stage which seamlessly converts from court, to hovel, to military battlements, the whole production is reminiscent of a pop-up travelling troupe.

It was not a completely seamless act. I found Oliver Boot’s camped-up Oswald pretty unbearable, along with a scene in which Boot was supposed to be playing two characters at once on stage. Leaping across the stage to have conversations with himself, the play plunged too deeply into farce, which didn’t exactly flatter the more serious subject matter.

This was also the case with the famous eye-gouging scene, which was pretty much played for slapstick, with Reagan squashing an eyeball under her heel and giggling at the audience. Considering the comedic tone of the whole performance, there was potential here to smack the audience in the face by shifting to a darker mood, but alas the farce continued.

These however were my only quibbles, and minor ones at that. The production was a fantastically-blended tragicomedy that proved King Lear need not be all doom and gloom, as is so often the case. The performance continues its run for another week here in Cambridge and I strongly encourage you to see it. If my review hasn’t persuaded you, then ask yourself this question:

Do you want to see Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince, in his pyjamas, wearing a crown of twigs, flapping his arms, squawking like an eagle and leaping off stage into some bushes?

I thought so.

King Lear is running from Wednesday 17th – Saturday 27th July at the Master’s Garden, Corpus Christi College. Tickets can be bought via. Cambridge Arts Theatre:

https://cambridgeartstheatre.purchase-tickets-online.co.uk/public/show.asp?shcode=10414

Have a CAU, Man!

- Minimal Design, Maximum Flavour.

– Minimal Design, Maximum Flavour.

Overall rating: 4/5

So, having been well-hyped ever since our return from China, we had heard “Cau-this” “Cau-that” and thought we should probably do something about it. This popular new restaurant with its bold modern façade has popped up right nearby the market square in Cambridge. Stark white and black design makes Cau look quite pretentious and made me pause at first. Once inside however, all stuffiness dissipated (aside from the stuffiness of the 30 degree day!). The staff were unbelievably friendly and welcoming, even catering for our inebriation at the time, joking and bringing us a massive pitcher of water. We were seated close to the window (well, more of an open-front) which have a really pleasant view down the Cambridge streets… Not that we really took advantage of that, we only had eyes for the menu.

The Order

  • Corn on the Cob
  • Causlaw
  • Triple-cooked Chunky Chips
  • 2 x 10oz. Rib Eye Steaks (Rare) with Side-Salad and Peppercorn Sauce

So, firstly the sides. The corn on the cob was weirdly enough the most expensive side on the menu. Whilst still over-priced it was drizzled with a generous slathering of blue cheese (or some such garnish). Since I don’t actually like cheese, this was scraped off, and although the corn was grilled to perfection, it was still just corn for £3.50.

The chunky-chips are something pretty special. Triple-cooked really does add an extra thick layer of crunch, and these are huge slabs of potato in the first place. They also came presented in a miniature deep-fat fryer basket which was an awesome touch.

Now, the Causlaw. Jeeeeez, the waiter warned us that some people said it was the best coleslaw they’d ever had, and I’m finding myself hard pushed to disagree. Essentially red-cabbage slaw with just enough mayo to bind it (but no excess) and little shavings of carrot thrown in. Considering there were steaks ordered, it makes it even more astounding that this was the best part of our meal, and it ended up being wolfed down pretty much instantly.

The steaks: A generous 10 oz., with not too much fat to boot either. Most of the fat that there was crisped up well, although some bits were still slightly too chewy / bloody. Although the quality of the meat was excellent, I have one bit of advice for ordering here: ask for it done rarer than you would like. And if you want rare, really stress to the waiter rare. Ours reached us medium-rare, which to be honest, we didn’t mind one bit due to the quality of the meat, but if you’re one that wants a lot of blood from your steak you may be slightly disappointed.

Overall, Cau was a slightly expensive punt (our order came to just over £45 with no alcohol), but you do get what you pay for. And it is a steak restaurant of course, so there were no big surprises when the bill came! However, my only slight niggle is that when you’re paying this much, you probably do want your steak cooked to order correctly. However, the sides were both fantastic and inventive, and the overall ambience and staff-attitude were great. All in all, well worth it as a treat, just make sure you book in advance as it is certainly a happening spot at the moment!