Melbourne Shakespeare Company’s moving contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, King Lear, comes to Fortyfivedownstairs later this month, with the buzz around its opening already heaving with all the might of Lear herself!

Not a typo!

Evelyn Krape brings her over 30 years of industry experience to the iconic role of Lear stating, “Lear is one of the great roles and for a male actor to play him is one thing but as a female actor all the more exciting.”

Krape says it is enthralling to play a character with such extremes; commanding, powerful, entitled and narcissistic but who breaks down before us in such an emotionally confronting way. “I think when you take on this kind of role you have to be prepared to climb a mountain, so apart from anything else strength and resilience is necessary,” she says.

Playing the role of the aging King of Britain, Lear, must indeed be a highlight for any actor but, for Krape, the question of sex might be conducive for a more nuanced approach. “I hope the fact that I am a woman playing this deeply flawed King , will give the audience an added perspective on the issue confronting us all; how do we deal with the entitled behaviour of men in our political, social and domestic worlds,” she says.

First performed in 1606, the themes of tragedy, hubris, ego, familial betrayal and the ultimate fall of Lear still resonate as loudly today as they did over 400 years ago.

“It is shocking to realise the issues Shakespeare was confronting in 1606 are still relevant. Power, corruption, familial and elder abuse,” says Krape. “I can imagine that some of the sexual and vitriolic language and images Lear uses against his daughters could be seen in Twitter feeds today.”

From his comedies (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest et al) to his tragedies (Antony and Cleopatra, Macbeth, Othello et al) as well as his history plays (Henry IV Part I and II along with his other more regal named plays) Shakespeare seems relevant no matter where we are or what time we are in. Some will tell you it is about his characters, while others talk of prose, language, poetry and symbolism, and others  talk of plot – to be honest, sometimes thin!

For Krape, it is, perhaps a blend of all three. “I think Shakespeare’s greatness lies in his profound understanding of human behaviour and that the poetry of his  language  matches the depth and greatness of his stories,” she says. “Also the physicality of those images gives the actor the arsenal  to play the character.”

Living with the role, and thus within the vast scope of Shakespeare’s language, Krape acknowledges many discoveries along the way. “One of the amazing things to discover is that out of the brutal behaviour that Lear exacts upon those closest to him, his daughters but also Kent and the Fool, comes an understanding of what Love really means,” she says. “The play opens with Lear demanding love and ends with him having experienced it.”

As far as what traditionalists should expect from the production, Krape says, “We are so used to seeing diverse and varied interpretations of Shakespeare that you trust the power of this production satisfies those seeking more traditional interpretations.

Krape was a founding member of the APG at the Pram Factory, winning the Best Actress Award for her role as Nellie Melba in Jack Hibberd’s play, A Toast to Melba. Krape won the Green Room Award for best actress in Ginger, at the Playbox. She has performed with 11th Hour in many award winning productions as well as appearing in the award winning Malthouse production, Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday in October 2015. Krape is Co Artistic Director of the Kadimah Yiddish Theatre and appeared in the award winning, Ghetto Cabaret at 45 Downstairs in August 2019. She won Best Actress Award [shared] for Tropfest 2019.

Krape is excited to highlight her participation in both the KYT and APG. “For the last few years I have been Co Artistic Director of the Kadimah Yiddish Theatre [KYT] but I started my career with the APG at the Pram Factory so I have a strong commitment to telling “our” stories Jewish and Australian to the widest audience possible,” she says.

Melbourne Shakespeare Company’s King Lear is a tender, violent, and intimate exploration of old age portrayed in all its vulnerability, pride, folly and wisdom.

Says Krape, “Come along and see a wonderful company, with a great cast deliver a potent and pungent King Lear in an edited version by Director , Ayesha Gibson.”

May 26 – June 6


Images: Jack Dixon-Gunn