The Fool Within

This entry refers to the recent production of King Lear presented by the Brooklyn Academy of Music  (BAM) and the Donmar Warehouse Theatre of London England

Seeing Derek Jacobi ‘s rendition of King Lear is a rewarding experience and seeing the play again prompted me to reflect on the issue of self-awareness.

This seasoned professional has a soaring vocal and emotional range that is rare among contemporary actors. He brings to the Lear role an honesty that beautifully displays all the contradictions, narcissistic demands, wounds and physiological manifestations of psychological panic and despair that any adult theatergoer can relate to.

In addition to Jacobi, the actor, one of the production’s few strengths is the portrayal of the relationship between Lear and his fool.  In all previous productions viewed these two characters are at odds from their first interaction. Lear’s quicksilver temper is focused as rapidly at the fool as it is on Cordelia and Kent.

In this otherwise mediocre production, Lear displays a dependency and a seeming “need” for his fool that I have never experienced before and which somehow helped me understand his childishness – as if the fool was part of himself – his shadow self.

The fool’s entrance provides immediate jocular interaction and seems to comfort the king and relieve his temper – as if the experience is “all in fun.” It’s as if the king is saying to the fool, you are joking as always, and this is what I need and want!

Of course what the fool is also doing is voicing the unspeakable, the unsaid and a more truthful perception of the situation at hand.

Only as Lear’s panic and disappointment grow does he find the fool’s comments difficult to accept. And yet he still longs for his companionship which generates yet another conflict for the king.

This ambivalent relationship reminds me of the internal dynamics we have within ourselves.  Can we objectively look at ourselves when we think of doing or actually do destructive or foolish things? I hope so.

Since most of us cannot afford professional fools as former rulers did (and possibly those who could afford them would not want them) we have little choice but to supply this function ourselves. However the reality is that we all resort to “bad behavior” once in a while and use the denial mechanism of  “ that’s not me” as well.

Its good to realize that we don’t need to be royalty in order to keep ourselves amused, to laugh at ourselves and to keep at least one foot, however fleetingly, in reality. Our ability to see ourselves as we fluctuate from moment to moment is one aspect of our own insight. Hopefully, unlike Lear, we don’t need someone else to keep us going with humor, agonizing insight and awareness of ourselves.  Maybe we are not as vulnerable to madness because of this. Unlike Lear we have not “scarcely known ourselves” for a good long while.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>