A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Christopher Gaze - From Richard III To King Lear & Back
Saturday, September 27, 2008

Last night Rosemary, Abraham Rogatnick and I went to the last performance of Bard on the Beach's production of William Shakespeare's King Lear with Christopher Gaze as Lear. Of Christopher Gaze as Lear I first wrote here.

As I prepared today and looked for the images I was going to use for this blog I was troubled with a melancholy that came to me for several reasons. As I look out the window our garden is decaying and the hosta leaves no longer look pristine in their greeness, blueness or goldness. Yellow is beginning to creep in on them all. The buds of some of my roses will not open and I think of them as potential beauty cut short by the season in much the way as that of a young woman or man cut short in the prime of life. Certainly it is the stuff to precipitate melancholy.

But there is a more important reason for it all. Somehow in all of my 66 years I never attended a performance of King Lear. Nor would I have ever suspected that I would do so with a loving friend who is of the same age as the Shakespearian King Lear. Not only that but Abraham Rogatnick (86) knows most of the lines of the play by heart. I watched him smile at Christopher Gaze's exquisite performance (on a wheel chair). With his usually neat hair combed, askew in every direction, I was watching the decay of time made worse by Rogatnick's confirmation of Gaze's accurate inerpretation. Watching Gaze lapse into insanity and ramble on I could see elements within myself. Will I become the role model of old age that Rogatnick embodies for me or will I become the foolish man of Shakespeare's play?

It didn't take me long to understand that the tragedy of the play hinges on a young woman's reticence to openly declare her love for her father. My mother died without me ever telling her so. Was my mother more prescient in understanding my reluctance to be vocal? My father and I understood our mutual love for each other without words. I believe he knew of it when he died. Yet my mother often told me, "Love, Alex is not saying but doing."

After both of King Lear's older daughters, Goneril and Regan, vocalize their love for their father upon his request, Lear says to his favourite, Cordelia:

...what can you say, to draw a third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.

Cordelia: Nothing my lord.

Lear: Nothing?

Cordelia: Nothing.

Lear: Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.

Cordelia: Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth: I love your majesty according to my bond; no more no less.

Lear: How, how Cordelia! mend your speach a little lest you may mar your fortunes.

Cordelia: Good my lord, You have begot me, bred me, lov'd me: I return those duties back as are right fit, obey you, and most honour you. Why have my sisters husbands, if they say they love you all? Haply, when I shall wed, that lord whose hand must take my plight, shall carry half my love whith him, half my care and duty: sure I shall never marry like my sisters, to love my father all.

Lear: But goes thy heart with this?

Cordelia: Aye, my good lord.

Lear: So young and so untender?

Cordelia: So young, my lord and true.

The tragedy then unfolds because of this misunderstanding. It would seem that Lear and my mother were at odds. Love sometimes is saying and not doing. Cordelia is banished and disinherited.

Watching Lear destroy his family (did he destroy his once mentioned dead wife? Of this we do not know), I felt a fear as my daughters become older and my eldest granddaughter begins to declare her independence not only from her immediate family but from me. I long for a little phone call, "Hi, papi, this is Rebecca. How are you?" Yes, love, sometimes is saying.

I have written here before on how I had the opportunity to photograph Chistopher Gaze as Richard III in 1984 and again in 1998. It seems appropriate that I first met Gaze when he was a much younger man playing in one of Shakespeare's earlier plays. It further seems appropriate that King Lear may be Gaze's last big part in a Shakespeare play written quite a few years later when Shakespeare's own father had died. As I lisened to Gaze give his company a sweet but melancholy speech backstage last night I kept thinking on how all those elements of my own personal life which had begun coincidentally in 1955 when I lived with my mother and grandmother on Calle Shakespeare in Mexico City had perhaps randomly conspired that I was to see Lear only last night and not before.

The image here of Christopher Gaze as Richard III, which I took in 1998, is a faded b+w photograph that has deteriorated so wonderfully (badly fixed!). It is a photograph that compresses not only Gaze's journey from Richard III to King Lear but also reminds me how much pleasure (and occasional melancholy) Christopher Gaze and his Bard on the Beach have brought to my Most special of all was being able to see King Lear through the eyes and ears of Abraham Rogatnick.


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