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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Edinburgh Fringe Fest - Lear Alone

Lear Alone began life as an award-winning web series during lockdown and has been turned into a one-man show for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. The show takes King Lear’s lines from one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays and tragedies to explore loneliness, aging and the rise of homelessness amongst the elderly. Both the web series and the theatre show have been produced in partnership with Crisis UK.

We spoke with actor Edmund Dehn about turning this Shakespeare classic into a one man show and his return to the Fringe for the first time in over forty years


Tell us a bit about your show

‘Lear Alone’ is a one-man version of Shakespeare’s play, using just Lear’s lines from the first Folio which is four hundred years old this year. We produced it in partnership with the charity, Crisis. Shakespeare makes his King become homeless and he changes his ideas as result: he learns through suffering. The play is also about family. Lear’s relationship with his daughters still speaks to families today (and in the most exquisite language). Finally, I’m doing this play because I love it - I believe it is the greatest one he ever wrote!

Why is it important to explore these themes?

In the last ten years, more and more older people have been experiencing homelessness. We want to draw attention to this and Shakespeare’s play is the perfect vehicle - if a King can become homeless, it can happen to anyone; and if it was an issue for Shakespeare four hundred years ago and still is today then isn’t it about time something was done?! We live in an angry, broken world. Lear’s world is also broken and his anger and despair, his descent into madness and the changed man who comes out the other side make this play both a warning and a message of hope.

Were there any challenges with adapting the digital version to stage?

Yes indeed! Our venue doesn’t have the capacity to project film or images, so we couldn’t use anything from the web series. This was in fact a blessing in disguise, as it forced us to rethink and create afresh, which we HOPE we have done. This ‘Lear Alone’ is a brand new one man stage show. An issue that came up a lot early in rehearsal was the need to make the audience, SEE all the other people that Lear interacts with. None of them are actually there but we have to make you believe them. We hope we have succeeded!

What’s your favourite line from King Lear?

Oh, there are so many wonderful lines to choose from! But I think I’d have to choose 2 in equal first place, if that’s allowed?! Firstly: “Poore naked wretches, where so ere you are That bide the pelting of this pittilesse storme, How shall your House-lesse heads, and unfed sides, Your lop’d and window’d raggednesse defend you From seasons such as these?” And secondly, the speech that starts: “O reason not the need: our basest Beggars Are in the poorest thing superfluous, Allow not Nature more then Nature needs: Mans life is cheape as Beastes.”

What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh Fringe?

I can’t wait to see what has changed since my last visit - in 1979! I last played the Fringe that year and haven’t been back since. The changes will, I expect and hope, be mind-blowing! And I am so looking forward to seeing new work, meeting new people in the same business and world as me and feeling part of it all again.

Lear Alone is at The Space Triplex, Studio, 4 - 19 August 2023 (not 13), 15.05 (15.55). For tickets go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/lear-alone

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