Review: Songs of Lear, Battersea Arts Centre

“Is my heart too large for you?”

It’s Shakespeare but not as you know it… It’s been over four years since I saw Polish company Song of the Goat but their haunting interpretation of Macbeth is still etched on my mind and so when they announced a return of their 2012 hit Songs of Lear I was keen to make a date during their short visit to Battersea Arts Centre. Not even a severe case of manflu could keep me away but I should probably apologise for passing on my germs to anyone who ended up with them! 

There’s no easy way to describe the work of Song of the Goat that really does them sufficient justice. I could talk about the expressionistic Kandinsky-inspired sketches that King Lear is condensed to create the 10 songs of the show but their enigmatic beauty is so much more than a simple reduction. Likewise, the words ‘Corsican polyphonic singing’ can’t convey the soul-wrenching beauty of what we hear (the merest snippet of which can be heard in the clip below).

Director Grzegorz Bral acts as an onstage curator for the journey, guiding both his 10-strong cast through their craft but also pointing us the audience through the work, offering context for the songs but also respite from the swelling emotion. For this is theatre that grabs you from within and just doesn’t let go, its extraordinary power building in strength throughout the hour to a final choral onslaught that laments an unimaginable pain that stretches way past Shakespeare to Syria and beyond. 

Running time: 65 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 22nd February

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