Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Book Review • PLAYING LEAR • Oliver Ford Davies • 2003

playinglearPlaying Lear by Oliver Ford Davies

‘What will go next — socks or pants? The socks make you look vulnerable. And ridiculous. Yes. So it’ll be the pants?’ Oliver Ford Davies wonders just how naked he will have to be for the storm scene in King Lear.

In the Spring of 1998, when Oliver Ford Davies was playing in Jonathan Kent’s production of Pirandello’s Naked, the director asked him to play the king in an Almeida Theatre production of King Lear. He had already played in Chekhov’s Ivanov for Kent the previous year and felt that at sixty he should take on the challenge. In this book he takes the reader through the process of exploring and developing the role until the production finally opens nearly four years later.

To get him ‘in training’ Kent suggested that he appear in his 2000 Almeida productions of Richard II and Coriolanus and it was after these plays had crossed the Atlantic and opened in New York that Davies began his serious study of the play.

For the next year we follow him through his analysis of the text, and thoughts about the play and the role. He looks at the way other actors have played Lear and considers the choices that are open to him, looking at different approaches to acting, at the ways of speaking verse, and directorial approaches as well as the cutting and editing of the text.

In the December, he begins a journal recording the seven weeks of rehearsal (less a 5 day Christmas break) up to the first public preview when the public find themselves enclosed in a panelled room with the actors, which disintegrates around them as the storm breaks and the actors are deluged with real water, and then on to the press night. Some months later, following a retrospective conversation with the director, Ford Davies looks back on the experience. He includes in the book a selection from the critics, a conversation with John Barton, and considers other productions and the programme note which, when the actors saw it on the night of the first preview, did prove to have some relevance to what they had been trying to achieve.

Thus Davies shares his own experience, writing in a direct and fluent style that takes the reader into his confidence. It is not an account of the creation of the production, though of course we incidentally learn much about it, but recounts the whole process from the viewpoint of the individual actor: his concerns both alone and in the rehearsal room. It is a fascinating read, not only for other actors and theatre workers, who will find much with which they can identify, but especially for the theatre goer who will gain a real understanding of the way in which an actor hones his craft and brings a character to life. It deserves a place on your bookshelf alongside Simon Callow’s Being an Actor and Antony Sher’s Year of the King.

Tom Howard © July 2003

Originally published n R&V 28-07-03


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on 03/27/2016 by in Books, Reviews, Theatre and tagged , , , , , .
Mandy Bangerter

Textile Artist and Teacher


Smile! You’re at the best site ever


Bohemian Stuff

pulseless electrical activity.

The Observation Post

mistermuse, half-poet and half-wit

Wild Star Landing

Poetry, Facts, Fiction, Inspired by Travel, Art, Science, Nature & Philosophy

Turtle Bunbury

Historian * Author * Presenter * Speaker * Guide

Fierce Writing

Not so much Rage Against the Machine as Slightly Peeved the Taps Won't Work

Victorian Footnotes

Bringing back the forgotten

Etan Smallman

Freelance journalist

Michael Ehrhardt

Permanenter Ausstellungsraum


Writing about writing; words about the world

It's all in the Past!

Writing about current events from a historical perspective.

Mrinalini Raj


History Quirks

The Casual Past


Words and images from the past

The adventures of Janice Duke and her Magical Travelling Paint Box

Caz Greenham...Storyteller...Author...

Creator and Author of The Adventures of Eric Seagull 'Storyteller' series

Movies From The Silent Era

A repository for movies from the silent era

Art Universal

Art as a Sensory

Henry Brooke

Musings, Memories and Miscellanea

Matthew Toffolo's Summary

Daily summary of the life/movie world.

When Angels Fly

Author site of S. Jackson & A. Raymond

off the leash

History, technology, books and baseball.



Writer Site

Memoir, poetry, & writing theory


faces gourmet world of fashion, design and art

From guestwriters

Lifestyle magazine and Readers Digest

The Vintage Toy Advertiser

Suffering ink-stained fingers and occasional staple wounds to bring you wonderful images of vintage toy ads and other retro paperworks

Sauce Box

Never get lost in the Sauce


Theatre, Film and TV.

Smart History Blog

Compelling Stories of Russian History

Newcastle Photography

Photography Blog by Chris Egon Searle

Brave and Reckless

Reclaiming my inner badass at 50

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

Watercolor paintings

Today in History

"Tell me a fact, and I'll learn. Tell me a truth, and I'll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever." - Steve Sabol, NFL Films

The Architect & I

The Nazis assigned him a number but I wanted the world to know his name.

Basic Archaeology

Archaeology News, Interesting Facts and More


Being a web log for the observations of actor, author, cartoonist, comedian, critic, director, humorist, journalist, master of ceremonies, performance artist, playwright, producer, publicist, public speaker, songwriter, and variety booker Trav S.D.

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art


A Green future for the Isle of Wight


a world travel photo blog by Jackie Hadel


Music means something

%d bloggers like this: