Interview: Atul Kumar for Nothing Like Lear

What do you think accounts for the enduring appeal of Shakespeare’s work and in particular, King Lear?
Shakespeare wrote with such deep insight into basic human emotions that it transcended language and culture. King Lear is the father in all of us, the daughter in all of us, the fool in all of us and the bastard brother in all of us. These are the essentials we carry wherever we are from, in place or time. We all go through love, betrayal, jealousies, existential angst, pride, old age, senility and blindness—in different forms. Those are King Lear’s existential pillars and that’s what we explore every time we revisit the show. 

What’s the most surprising thing about this staging?
That even through the most humorous rant or vaudeville act we manage to touch upon the very tragedy of this senile old king.

What’s it like playing a clown?
It’s a mask that is liberating. It gives us the license to explore acts and ideas, which we might not if we were naked without a mask. Often this exploration results in magical stuff and it is fun.

Many people find clowns scary (coulrophobia). What do you think accounts for this?
Clowns are scary like dolls are scary. Some of it is just Hollywood and Bollywood imagery. But it is real: I remember once a circus clown approached me in the audience and I wanted to disappear. When an actor walks up to you and looks into your eyes, it’s very disconcerting.

Nothing Like Lear is on May 8-9, 8pm at The Drama Centre, National Library, 100 Victoria St., 6837-8400, $54-100 from Sistic.