SHADOW KING CASTS A LONG SHADOW
I might have missed this Adelaide Festival of Arts event if I hadn’t been given tickets as an early birthday present: I would have missed a brilliant and rewarding piece of theatre.
The Shadow King, an adaption of Shakespeare’s King Lear, set in an Aboriginal community in outback Australia and combining traditional indiginous languages, contemporary English and phrases from the original text, was a triumph at every level. The original story of greed, jealousy, power-play and madness was interpreted with originality by reflecting present Aboriginal conflicts over land ownership and mining royalties.
The revolving set was alternately an intimidating mining rig or a corrugated iron dwelling, variously back-lit with projections of outback landscapes or interior views of the house. A three piece band to the side of the stage set the mood with music ranging from snippets of rock and popular song, to tribal chant. The cast joined in at times, often providing humorous relief.
Stand-out performances by Tom E. Lewis as Lear, and Jimi Bani as the villain, Edmund, were unforgettable. Bani at times seemed to dance, his movements around the set were sheer fluid athleticism. Watching his performance I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Watch out, Idris Elba!’
In all sincerity, I could see it all again immediately.