So finally we did get over to yon HD-casting arthouse to see Derek Jacobi's Donmar Warehouse King Lear. This of course is the decade of Lear, a whole generation of actors having reached the age where they're not only believable in the role but still physically able to perform it. I imagine at some point this becomes a really fine line, and a very small window of opportunity.
I got the sense that this was the kind of pressure Jacobi was under -- the "now or never" factor -- and I'm glad he decided to do it. I'm just not sure he brought much to the role, other than the not inconsiderable benefit of just hearing him speak those lines. Of course, Jacobi has always been one of those actors who can sometimes lose himself in a role -- or perhaps "slip the audience" is a better phrase -- and other times not. That said, when he is good he's worth seeing, and when he's better he's brilliant. I don't think he really has off nights, or bad performances, and I've never seen him in anything where he clearly didn't belong. (Did you know he read for the role of Hannibal Lechter? Now there was a missed opportunity, the ultimate creep-out for Cadfael fans everywhere.)
Long story long, I felt there was something missing from this Lear. A certain level of commitment, maybe. It may be that doing the production at tiny Donmar Warehouse was ultimately ham-stringing, allowing for too much interiority when what was needed was a little more psychological furniture-smashing. Or it may be that, while it isn't too early for Jacobi to be doing this play, it's too early for Michael Grandage to be directing it. Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing this production at BAM, and seeing how the larger space of the Harvey affects the presentation -- and also, how it plays sans the mediating factor of the cameras. I have no doubt it will be good. It might even end up being brilliant.