- Photo by Graeme B. Shaw
Of all the things in the world to exacerbate your fear of clowns, this scene in Synetic Theatre's King Lear might be the one that puts a coulrophobic over the edge: That of Edmond seducing Regan (whose clown makeup, at this point in the show, is beginning to resemble Heath Ledger's Joker) over the corpse of her husband, the Duke of Cornwall. Synetic uses harlequin and Pierrot clowns to illustrate the absurdity and foolishness of Lear's world – one in which superficial attributes are valued more than genuine ones, and madness overcomes its leaders. But what begins as a foolish clown romp (complete with a synchronized dance-off!) ends as a twisted, fearful look at the jokers around us, and the harm they cause.
For the seventh work in Synetic's "Silent Shakespeare" series, director Paata Tsikurishvili has changed the gender of Lear's youngest and most loyal daughter, Cordelia, to a gay man (Chris Dinolfo), harshly outed and banished by his sisters. They get the largest share of Lear's kingdom, but once they betray him, Lear (Irakli Kavsadze) becomes entranced by visions of death, and begins to go insane. All the while, Gloucester (Hector Reynoso) is duped by his perfidious son who has turned him against the faithful Edgar (Ben Cunis).
King Lear's dystopia is in a bombed-out desert structure, designed by Phil Charlwood, and is covered in sand (actually made of cork) that enhances the movement of each actor during fight scenes as it's displaced. But it's the clown makeup that takes on a life of its own throughout the show, beginning as mere folly, and morphing into something altogether sinister – a premonition of Gloucester's horrific blinding, and a measure of how low these characters have sunk. Ironically, only the Fool (Mirenka Cechova) emerges unscathed.