Marton Endre: King Lear, 1964.

Context of the Performance in Theatrical Culture

The 1964 performance of King Lear, that was set on stage in the National Theatre for the 400th anniversary of the playwright, remained a showcase item of the one-party state’s official theatrical life for more than a decade, thanks to the two renewals in 1967 and 1974. The premiere was accompanied by almost unanimous critical...

Dramatic text, dramaturgy

As the textual cuts are insignificant, and the performance is utterly based on the text (more precisely the classical translation of Mihály Vörösmarty), we cannot speak of dramaturgical work in the usual sense, only a reading of the play that is concretized in the staging. Regarding the latter, the findings of the reviews are grouped...

Direction

Endre Marton’s directing is hallmarked by its moderation, its ‘grand, yet restrained style’, which, however, could not a become a benefit for this four-hour tragedy performance (played in three in parts). Due to his instructions, the acting noticeably leaves behind ‘the harsh sentimentality and empty effect-seeking of romanticism’ and it is exempt of cheap ‘sorrowfulness’....

Acting

The cast, qualified as ‘spectacular’, met undivided praise at the occasion of the 1964 premier, but ten years later at the time of the renewal some of the critics made it clear that ‘the performance of Lajos Básti […] is a little outdated’, and the ‘excellent actors, Kossuth Prize winners could not cope with their...

Stage design and sound

The effect of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s guest performance was most visible in the external elements, in the stage design that created ‘a feel that is both ancient and modern’, and that was ‘monumentally grim’. Josef Svoboda’s stage setting, that operated abstract spatial components and appeared more architectural than representative, was a real curiosity in...

Impact and posterity

Except for Svoboda’s impact, that worked independently from the performance, Endre Marton’s Lear did not have considerable influence on Hungarian Shakespeare playing. Nevertheless, it soon became a legend (both literally and figuratively, in program schedules and in aesthetics) being the final performance of the old National Theatre, feeding the myth of the ‘glorious palace of...