THERE'S no doubting who the real Fool is in King Lear.
It certainly isn't the man charged with the task making the monarch laugh. It's the man who wears the crown, the man who can't see through the hollow flatteryof two scheming daughters who set about undermining his authority. Regan and Goneril are Shakespeare's answer to the ugly sisters, ugly on the inside.
This play, being staged at the Royal Exchange in a co-production with Talawa, sees Don Warrington take on the title role and his performance in solid rather than sensational. Please cut down on the snarling Don - it's far too prevalent even though Lear has plenty to be unhappy about as he rapidly looses his grip on power an reality.
That said, the scene in which Lear confronts the much wronged Gloucester (Philip Whitchurch) is heartbreakingly powerful.
I also felt more could have been made of the relationship between Regan and Goneril which is underplayed, in my opinion. Far more interesting and engaging is what happens between Edmund and his illegitimate brother Edgar, thanks to two brilliant performancesfrom Alfred Enoch and Fraser Ayres. Ayres is captivating as the quiet, serpent like Edgar and Enoch really comes into his own in disguise as the mud splattered madman Poor Tom.
This King Lear is highly watchable if not highly memorable and at three and a half hours including an interval, it is a long haul. Some of the lines, however, remain exquisite.
* Until May 7. The box office is on 0161 833 9833. Star rating - ***